A Penny Saved May Not Be a Penny Earned: The Price of Westlaw Account Abuse

Students beware! Using Westlaw and LexisNexis for work may cost you and your boss beyond your checkbook! Although tuition and costs associated with law school are at all time highs, one thing remains free—access to Westlaw and LexisNexis for law school students. However, free access to an expensive service invites the possibility of abuse, especially in difficult economic times.

Westlaw’s Terms and Conditions highlight the consequences of using the service for commercial purposes and inform the student of the company’s right to collect all charges incurred. Besides the economic penalties associated with abusing the free service, there are also a variety of ethical implications to consider.

The Utah Ethics Advisory Committee opined that a lawyer violates the Rules of Professional Conduct when he or she “encourages or participates in a law student’s violation of the student’s contractual obligation to the electronic research service.” Under Rule 5.3, a lawyer has a duty to supervise his or her non-lawyer assistants and ensure that their behavior is in compliance with the rules. Further, using the students’ research services in this way is theft, and is, therefore, a violation of Rule 8.4(b). The Committee concluded by stressing the dishonest nature of this type of act, which would also constitute a violation of Rule 8.4(c).

So, students avoid the ethical and financial repercussions of the improper use of your Westlaw and LexisNexis accounts . . . If an employer requests that you use your free service at work, you can protect yourself and your boss by clicking on the links above and providing the support for your need to decline the request.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *