Continuing my exploration of the economics of the practice of law, I listened in on a presentation that included a segment on how law firms may be moving to single providers for primary law access. Although a perennial topic previously noted on 3 Geeks, the rising pressure from clients not to pass on these types of costs is making this decision more of a real option.
Going through a mental exercise of what it likely costs per year, per lawyer for primary law access, I suggest the following math (This excludes the ‘free’ access providers such as Casemaker or Fastcase since they are only available in certain states):

$500 / month: average cost per lawyer for online research services.
$250 / month: 50% of that, to glean out all the high cost, practice specific stuff.
$125 / month: 50% of that, to filter out the secondary resources and editorial content attached to primary law.

The Solution: $125 x 12 months = $1500 in savings per year per lawyer per system for access to primary law.

My experience is that most legal research centers on primary law, so 25% should be a pretty conservative estimate. For a law firm, you could take that number and multiply it by the number of primary law access services you have (minus the one you keep) to come up with the ultimate savings of going to a single provider.
Yes – there are issues with going to a single provider, such as the links between secondary and primary law in a given setting. However, many of those issues can be resolved in negotiations. There will likely be some practice groups who need to retain access to certain primary law services, but it won’t be something the entire firm needs. So a decision to go to a single primary law access service will include a bit of work, but could lead to significant savings.
The real question: How much would your firm save?