(How to Avoid Being Roadkill on
the Information Superhighway)

1996 All Rights Reserved
Richard R. Orsinger

XVIII. CHOICES ON ACCESS TO LEGAL INFORMATION The following legal information is available on CD-ROM or through on-line services. The list is not exhaustive. If you know of a good information source on CD-ROM or on-line that is not listed here, or wish to share comments on your purchasing decision, please send an e-mail or letter to the Author.

H. Some Information on CD-ROMs The following information was presented at a recent meeting of the Council of the Appellate Practice and Advocacy Section, by John Wallace, a Houston-area representative of Lawyers Cooperative Publishing ( A recent ABA survey shows that 77% of attorneys are using CD-ROM, up from 62% in 1995 and 33% in 1994. Industry statistics show that there are over 100 million CD-ROM drives in place.

One CD-ROM disk contains about 650 megabytes of data, or the equivalent of 400 3.5" floppy disks. New disk technology, called DVD (digital versatile disk or digital video disk) can store 4.7 gigabytes of information on one side, 8.5 Gb on a double-sided disk. There soon will be CD-UDF (universal disk format), which will permit the user to record his/her own CD's.

A single speed CD-ROM reader is nine times faster than ISDN (digital telephone line) transmission. Most new CD-ROM drives are 6 times or 8 times as fast as the single speed drive.

J. Merger Mania In June of 1996, the United States Justice Department approved the merger of West Publishing Co. and Thomson Legal Publishing (TLP), to create a new corporation named the West Information Publishing Group. As noted by W. Michael Brown, President of Thomson: "Combining West's massive database of primary law and our strong position in secondary legal material will benefit legal researchers. It will make possible the full integration of two essential types of content and provide an unparalleled array of productivity-enhancing research products and practice aids with superior features and functionality -- all having a common look and feel and delivered right to the desktop. The result will be what our customers want: higher productivity in legal research and, as a result, more efficient lawyers." See

One of the conditions for approval of the merger was the Justice's Department's requirement that TLP make available to any interested party standardized licenses for a West service called "Star Pagination," which is a widely accepted method of citing to Federal and state case law. TLP's agreement to broadly license Star Pagination on published terms for commercially reasonable fees will increase the number of vendors who can utilize the service. There is a pending lawsuit between West and Matthew Bender & Co. over the use of the star pagination system. According to an article on p. 6 of the August 12, 1996 Texas Lawyer (entitled "West's Citation System Under Attack on Two Fronts"), on Aug. 5 the Justice Department asked the federal judge presiding over the case for permission to intervene.

Meanwhile, on August 6, 1996, the American Bar Association's House of Delegates voted by 336-59 to adopt the recommendation of the ABA's Special Committee on Citation Issues to create a new, vendor-neutral method of citing appellate court opinions. The citation would reflect the year of issue, a symbol designating the court issuing the opinion, sequential numbering of each decision, and paragraph numbering throughout the opinion for pinpoint references. An example would be"Able v. Baker, 1996 5thCir 45, P5, 32 F.3d 355," where "5thCir" is the issuing court, "P5" is the paragraph number where the cited material is set out, and the "F.3d" is the reporter where the case is published in paper form.

Another point of interest is that Thomson Publishing, a Canadian corporation, owns Lawyers Cooperative Publishing, another major publisher of Texas legal information, as well as Shepard's Citators. LCP in turn had previously acquired Curtis Hill Publishing, the publisher of Q'Case, Texas cases on CD-ROM. Thomson also owns Clark Boardman Callaghan, a legal publisher. And prior to Thomson's acquisition of West, West had acquire The Rutter Group, another legal publisher. Now The Thomson Corporation (with total revenues of $7.25 billion in 1995 and a worldwide staff of more than 40,000) directly or indirectly owns West, Rutter, LCP, Clark Boardman Callaghan, and Q'Case, giving Thomson a dominant position in the sale of legal information to Texas lawyers. The remaining independent major publisher of Texas law is Matthew Bender & Co., which may in the future be acquired by a huge publishing giant, like Reed Elsevier Inc., the Dutch corporation that own Lexis-Nexis. It remains to be seen if monopolistic price increases occur.

L. West's Texas Cases and Annotated Texas Statutes on CD-ROM West Publishing Co. (1-800-255-2549, ext. 133) offers Texas appellate opinions on CD-ROM. The search engine ("front end") is West's proprietary software program called "Premise." For more information, see The cases are available on three CD-ROM disks. Beginning in August of 1996, the three disks cover Texas Supreme Court decisions from 1886 to date, and court of appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals cases from 1944 to date. The most recent disk contains slip opinions that have not yet been edited by West's editorial department. Subscribers receive the newest update disk monthly, and are asked to mail the older newest disk back to West in an enclosed mailer. West licenses the disk for use only while the subscription is maintained. Premise is available in both Windows and DOS versions, and for the Macintosh. Users are about 5-to-1 Windows to DOS, and 10-to-1 Windows to Macintosh. The latest version of Premise is Premise 3.1, but a 3.13 "fix" (for the DOS and Windows version) started mailing about August 8, 1996. There is no licensing fee to obtain a West CD-ROM subscription, and it costs $ 70.00 per month to maintain a subscription, which includes a subscription to the weekly paperback "Advance Sheets." The minimum contract term is one month, so the arrangement is essentially month-to-month. The West disks provide West's three editorial enhancements: (1) synopsis at the beginning of the case; (2) headnotes for each point of law; and (3)West's topics and Key Numbers. The disks also include indications of the S.W. reporter internal page numbers, which can be used for "jump cites." These internal page references are not available to other publishers, except upon licensing from West. See Oasis Pub. Co., Inc. v. West Pub. Co. 1996 WL 264773 (D. Minn.) (West's arrangement of cases in Southern Reporter was sufficiently original to be subject to copyright as a compilation, and a competitor's CD-ROM product that would copy West's internal pagination is not fair use). West has just introduced free on-line access to cases published since the last disk update. You can call a West 800 number and do CD-ROM-like searches on that database.

The Author has subscribed to West's Texas Cases and Annotated Texas Statutes for several years. The availability of information on CD-ROM disk at the Author's computer has resulted in almost eliminating trips to the hard-book law library. The Author generally prints out the cases he needs on the laser jet printer next to the Author's desk, and uses that paper copy of the cases to study and take to court. When finished with the project, the paper is recycled. The Windows version of Premise permits the printing of cases in double columns, like in the South Western Reporter.

West Publishing Company also has Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes Annotated on CD-ROM, including Texas Rules Annotated and other rule-related products. There is no initial fee for a license, and it costs $60.00 per month to maintain a subscription. As with cases, the license can be maintained month-to-month. The cost for a second (or more) user at the same site is an additional $30.00/month for each additional user.

N. LCP's Texas Cases on CD-ROM Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Company (LCP) has recently begun to offer Texas cases on CD-ROM disks. In a product called "Texas Law on Law Desk," LCP offers on two disks Texas appellate decisions back to 1952 (245 S.W.2d). The cases contain links to other LCP products, such as Tex. Jur. 3d. The cases do not have internal page citations to the South Western Reporter series. Instead, each paragraph of the appellate opinion is individually numbered, so that you can refer to the specific paragraph of the opinion, as an alternative to the West Reporter page cite.

The July release of Law Desk disks consists of the main disk and an archive disk. The main disk contains cases from all Texas appellate courts from 1971 forward. The main disk also contains most Texas codes (Bus. & Comm. Code, Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code, Family Code, Probate Code, etc.), as well as Texas AG Opinions since 1/30/91, Ethics Advisory Opinions since 1/23/92, as well as some U.S. Fifth Circuit Opinions. The rate for a single user is around $ 95.00 per month, but call 1-800-762-5272 to get concrete information about prices.

The Law Desk cases link to other LCP products, like Tex. Jur. 3d, ALR 3rd, 4th, and 5th, Am. Jur. 2d, and ALR Federal, as well as Tex. Jur. Pleading & Practice Forms 2d, Texas Forms: Legal & Business, McDonald Texas Civil Practice 2d, Am. Jur. Legal Forms, Federal Procedural Forms, etc., and those products link to the LCP cases on CD-ROM.

The search engine and "front end" for access to the LCP products is "Folio Infobase," the most widespread CD-ROM search engine. Folio is owned by Lexis-Nexis, which presents an interesting scenario. The Thomson Corporation, which already owns LCP, has recently acquired West Publishing Co. for $3.425 billion. Thomson licenses Folio from Lexis-Nexis, paying a royalty to Lexis-Nexis which is a competitor. Thomson, through West, now owns Premise, the CD-ROM search front-end used for West products. Will Thomson continue to use Folio for LCP products, and pay royalties to a competitor, or will it drop LCP's use of Folio and move all Thomson subsidiary products to the Premise front-end? Or will it buy Folio Infobase?

P. Q'Case (Cases on CD-ROM) Curtis Hill Publishing Company formerly manufactured and marketed Q'Case, a product with Texas appellate cases on CD-ROM. LCP has taken over the marketing of the product, although it is still produced by Curtis Hill. The two-disk CD-ROM set is available for monthly, quarterly and semi-annual update, the latter being less expensive. Pricing information can be obtained from LCP at 1-800-962-5272. Q'Case uses a "front end" called Interview, while other LCP products use FOLIO. The Author understands that LCP will continue to support both front ends, as well as the Premise front end developed by West Publishing Company.

R. Westlaw In response to the Lexis-Nexis MVP program (now renamed Lexis-Nexis Advantage, as described below), Westlaw has recently introduced a new flat-rate service for access to the Westlaw database. Called "Westlaw Pro" ("Predictable Research Online"), solo practitioners and firms with 2 to 9 attorneys can have unlimited access to Westlaw's Texas databases for $ 125.00 per month for the first attorney and $ 50.00 per month for each additional attorney. This arrangement permits access to Texas cases, Texas statutes annotated, Texas court rules and orders, Texas Administrative Code and Register, Texas Attorney General Opinions, Texas Secretary of State Corporate Records and other company information, Texas Workers' Compensation Administrative Decisions, and other Texas databases. You can add federal databases like the U.S. Supreme Court cases, Fifth Circuit cases, etc., for $150.00 per month extra. To get more information call 1-800-255-2549, ext. 198.

T. Lexis-Nexis Lexis-Nexis, headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, describes itself as the world's leading provider of enhanced information services and management tools. The company says that its mission is to "help legal, business and government professionals collect, manage and use information more productively." Lexis-Nexis is a division of Reed Elsevier plc, one of the world's largest publishing and information businesses. Reed Elsevier has annual sales in excess of $5 billion and 29,700 employees. See c/about/newsrelease/nr125.html.

Lexis-Nexis has a service option and pricing plan designed to be attractive to sole practitioners and lawyers in small offices. Called "Lexis-Nexis Advantage," this service permits unlimited on-line searching and printing of cases and other legal authorities for a flat monthly fee. Flat-rate libraries are available for all 50 states, plus 12 specialty practice libraries, including areas such as bankruptcy, torts and insurance, tax, labor and environmental. See c/about/news release/nr101.html.

To have 24-hour on-line access on Lexis to Texas cases, a sole practitioner would pay something like $110.00 per month. Call 1-800-356-6548 to get more exact information. A note of caution: using the hypertext link feature of Lexis-Nexis incurs charges beyond the monthly fee. Inquire into that aspect of the service, to be sure that you know what the hypertext linking feature will cost.

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Created August 28, 1996
Last updated August 28, 1996