Daniel Lewis
May 17, 2017

How Much Does Legal Research Software Actually Cost?

It’s commonplace in today’s fast paced world to make impulse decisions with limited analysis. In status quo situations these impulse decisions are fine - you often have a right sense of correct and incorrect because it is intuitive. This decision making methodology can be dangerous though when applied against innovative technologies. Innovation is by definition not intuitive. People on the front lines evaluating legal research software typically look at monthly or annual cost of a tool and immediately react with “Wow that’s expensive” or “I don’t have room in the budget for this.” The issue with this decision making methodology is a decision will be made before a proper holistic analysis has been done or cost-benefit has been thought through.

Effective cost per user

Back when research was primarily with physical books, law librarians would place tape or sticky notes on the volumes and check periodically to see if these “seals” had been broken. This method would help them understand whether or not these resources were heavily used, and therefore worth ordering upon the release of the next version.

As tools moved online, librarians could no longer track usage with a simple piece of tape on a physical volume. However, with the advent of legal research software like MonitorSuite, librarians could resume tracking usage; in fact they could do so more efficiently than ever before.

One often ignored outcome of monitoring usage is that the true cost of tools can be understood. If a product costs $300 per month, but only 20% of the people with licenses actually use it, then the effective cost is $1,500 per month per user.

Opportunity cost

A recent report by Blue Hill Research found that more than 25% of law firm associate research time is written off. What if that time was billable? At a rate of $300 per hour, the financial impact of inefficient research exceeds $60,000 per year per associate. This is time spent that could have been spent billing on other matters.

Ability to pass costs to clients

While legal research software costs are increasingly being viewed as firm overhead, savvy firms are still finding ways to pass costs along to clients in a way that satisfies both parties.

Just as firms bill at higher rates for attorneys with more relevant experience and stronger track records, firms can bill for superior tools. When looking at the total cost of litigation, a tool that costs $250 per month will cost the firm less if that tool saves an attorney just one hour of time over the course of the month. Additionally, if the tool increases the quality of the attorney’s work product, it will pay for itself many times over.


Corporate clients demand value. Many large corporations refuse to pay for first and second- year associates because they do not believe their work product is yet worth the rate at which they bill.

Firms that can demonstrate to clients they have a deep commitment to value are more likely to win business and improve their overall financial profile. Writing a five-figure check for a new technology to support a new multi-million dollar client is something that every firm should support.

Contact Ravel to learn how firms are using our cost recovery feature to minimize and in some cases totally eliminate the cost of critical legal research technology.

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