Several times in the past year, I have given speeches asking the question whether a lawyer’s failure to take advantage of the vast amounts of free information available on the Internet might subject that lawyer to a claim of negligence. This month, GPSolo Magazine features the article Keep Up or Face Peril — which attempts to answer my question as it pertains to traditional online research (Lexis, Westlaw, etc.). Although I would never abandon the library as a valuable source of information, I think it’s important to strike the right balance between the print and online research worlds — they are both critical to having complete access to information.

The “legal research” referred to in the article refers mostly to research of “primary sources” — caselaw, statutes, etc. But let’s expand the definition of “research” a bit. Let’s say your client’s opponent has some dirty laundry, but you haven’t discovered it yet. Let’s also say that information may be (to the opponent’s regret) readily available on the Internet, either for free or a reasonable price. Should a lawyer’s obligation go that far?

By the way, check out A Lawyer’s Judgment Will Never Be Automated, for an opposing perspective on the issue.

(thanks to ethicalEsq? for pointing me to the article and the great discussion on it)