Continuing Jerry’s discussion of free search engines vs. WestLaw or Lexis and my comments on learning about free Internet resourcesGenie notes that the real question is “Who Has the Information?”

Genie has a good point — the first enquiry should be “where can I find this information?” I take issue, however, with her comment that Jerry and I overlook this “research basic.” I can’t speak for Jerry, but in my comments I assumed that the important first question Genie raises had already been answered. In fact, I noted that the challenge is “where is the best/easiest/cheapest place to find this information?” I limited my remarks to Internet vs. Westlaw/Lexis because 1) Jerry had previously limited the scope of the argument, and 2) the Internet is my particular interest. Although in my presentations I remind lawyers that electronic research is not the panacea for our research needs, I am certainly no expert on the print and electronic stand-alone research tools available to us. I leave it to Genie and Sabrina to keep reminding us lawyers that libraries still exist.

There’s an additional issue that needs to be addressed here. Both Jerry and I raised points about the benefits of cheap and/or easy legal research, and how the typical lawyer reacts to them. If information is available through a particular resource, but a lawyer might have to learn a complicated search syntax to get to that information, will he or she take the time to do that? Further, if information is available on Westlaw but the client refuses to pay for online research, will the lawyer incur the expense? I think the answers to these questions are sometimes yes, sometimes no. So while “who has the answer” is the critical first question, other factors often make the location of the information irrelevant.