How Nonbillable Research Can Be Profitable

Law firms and legal departments rely on their library staff for many things, including:
  1. Managing nonbillable research and cost recovery.
  2. Understanding how their attorneys and paralegals are researching.
  3. Whether it is the most efficient and cost-effective strategy.

These are important issues have a direct impact on any organization’s bottom line. Brian Quinn, Senior Directorof WestlawNext® Product Development, offers his insights into it.

Why Would Legal Research be Nonbillable?

There are some kinds of work and some kinds of practice groups that may actually want to do research but never bill their client for that work. Or maybe it’s a firm that does outside counsel work for a corporation and the two parties have agreed to not recover costs for primary law content.

What are Legal Organizations Currently Using to Help Manage Nonbillable Time? 

Some of our customers use a nonbillable client ID code (99999, for example) when logging onto Westlaw® Classic or WestlawNext to ensure certain research is not billed back to a client. Other firms set up eLibraries on Westlaw Classic, where they can search through a static set of cases and statutes (or other content) without having to log in or enter a client ID.

Is There Anything New That Works Better?

Yes, eLibraries on WestlawNext. It lets librarians create a customized page, deliver it to a group of attorneys within the organization, and know that they’ve got all of the right content for their work, and yet it won’t be billed to the client.

How Easy is it for the Researchers?

Researchers can simply log into WestlawNext with their own username and password, then click into the customized eLibrary page designed around their client, their industry, their practice area—or a combination of those. Everything is there for them in one place—all the search tools, research history, folders—so there’s no need to switch between multiple products.
The page is simply color-coded as a nonbillable zone. If they want the research to be billable, they simply toggle back to a billing zone with a single click.

How Do Librarians Know How Their Researchers are Searching? 

A major improvement in the new eLibraries on WestlawNext is the addition of Westlaw Analytics. You see, previously, when an attorney was researching in an eLibrary on Westlaw Classic, their history was not recorded. Now, with Westlaw Analytics on WestlawNext, it is.
Librarians can now analyze trends, investigate specific user behavior, proactively monitor research, engage users in cost recovery strategies, and realize unique goals in efficiency, education, and budgeting. For example, administrators can see where an associate struggled through a research issue, and suggest ways to conduct that research more efficiently next time.
They can also use the data to monitor costs on a particular project or to estimate research costs on future matters, which is especially helpful when bidding for an alternative fee arrangement.

Are eLibraries and Westlaw Analytics Free?

eLibraries and Westlaw Analytics are included with any WestlawNext subscription of 30+ attorneys. So it’s easy and affordable for the library staff to customize the research experience, control cost recovery, and gain insight into research habits in order to design a more profitable research strategy.
To hear more from Brian about eLibraries, Westlaw Analytics, and other legalinsights, go to

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