Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

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Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 02, 2012 3:39 pm

Is it ethical to use my school's Westlaw account during my 1L summer internship? I'm going to be working for a small, underfunded, public firm and don't want to waste their resources on Westlaw (We both use Westlaw by default.)

Thoughts?

LawIdiot86
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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby LawIdiot86 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 3:57 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Is it ethical to use my school's Westlaw account during my 1L summer internship? I'm going to be working for a small, underfunded, public firm and don't want to waste their resources on Westlaw (We both use Westlaw by default.)

Thoughts?


Um, have you asked how they pay for it? Sometimes public interest groups like that get a constant rate regardless of how much they use it.

seatown12
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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby seatown12 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:16 pm

I don't think it's unethical; the school is paying for Westlaw (and everything else) with your [loan] money.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby 03121202698008 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:24 pm

seatown12 wrote:I don't think it's unethical; the school is paying for Westlaw (and everything else) with your [loan] money.


Actually, the school pays nothing for Westlaw. It's given free to
hook you and therefore comes with restrictions. Using it during your internship likely violates the terms of service and is unethical. They make exceptions for some kinds of public interest but otherwise you can't use it. Doing so is an honor code violation at some schools.

BeenDidThat
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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby BeenDidThat » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:25 pm

You'd be violating your agreement with Westlaw.

seatown12
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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby seatown12 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:31 pm

blowhard wrote:
seatown12 wrote:I don't think it's unethical; the school is paying for Westlaw (and everything else) with your [loan] money.


Actually, the school pays nothing for Westlaw. It's given free to
hook you and therefore comes with restrictions. Using it during your internship likely violates the terms of service and is unethical. They make exceptions for some kinds of public interest but otherwise you can't use it. Doing so is an honor code violation at some schools.

Violating terms of service =/= unethical, but that is obviously an important consideration.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby 03121202698008 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:37 pm

seatown12 wrote:
blowhard wrote:
seatown12 wrote:I don't think it's unethical; the school is paying for Westlaw (and everything else) with your [loan] money.


Actually, the school pays nothing for Westlaw. It's given free to
hook you and therefore comes with restrictions. Using it during your internship likely violates the terms of service and is unethical. They make exceptions for some kinds of public interest but otherwise you can't use it. Doing so is an honor code violation at some schools.

Violating terms of service =/= unethical, but that is obviously an important consideration.


It depends on your definition of ethical. You're breaching a contract. Does it violate the rules of ethics? No. That doesn't mean it isn't unethical to use something given to you for free for a specific purpose for a different purpose and to their detriment. Regardless of how good you think your cause is. Westlaw gets to decide if they donate their access, not you. In this case, it's clearly unethical.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:42 pm

blowhard wrote:
seatown12 wrote:I don't think it's unethical; the school is paying for Westlaw (and everything else) with your [loan] money.


Actually, the school pays nothing for Westlaw. It's given free to
hook you and therefore comes with restrictions. Using it during your internship likely violates the terms of service and is unethical. They make exceptions for some kinds of public interest but otherwise you can't use it. Doing so is an honor code violation at some schools.


That's what I thought. I just can't seem to find the fine print to know if it is/isn't. If anyone can find it that would be wonderful.

The way my firm works is there is ~60 attorneys and only about ~10 Westlaw access codes. The attorneys who don't have a code use other accounts. Same goes for interns.

The overwhelming consensus doesn't think it's unethical so I'm going to assume Westlaw doesn't crack down on this type of use. I'll probably use it unless a request is made for me to stop doing research with my school account.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby 03121202698008 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
blowhard wrote:
seatown12 wrote:I don't think it's unethical; the school is paying for Westlaw (and everything else) with your [loan] money.


Actually, the school pays nothing for Westlaw. It's given free to
hook you and therefore comes with restrictions. Using it during your internship likely violates the terms of service and is unethical. They make exceptions for some kinds of public interest but otherwise you can't use it. Doing so is an honor code violation at some schools.


That's what I thought. I just can't seem to find the fine print to know if it is/isn't. If anyone can find it that would be wonderful.

The way my firm works is there is ~60 attorneys and only about ~10 Westlaw access codes. The attorneys who don't have a code use other accounts. Same goes for interns.

The overwhelming consensus doesn't think it's unethical so I'm going to assume Westlaw doesn't crack down on this type of use. I'll probably use it unless a request is made for me to stop doing research with my school account.


They will shut off your account automatically. Around April you'll get an email and a link will appear allowing you to request access for the summer. The permitted options are listed and you have to indicate why you need access.

The fact they don't crack down doesn't make it ethical. You didn't ask if you could get away with it...there is a difference. You've also given them permission to bill you for unapproved use although this is unlikely. Everything is flagged on the printout as well so you wouldn't be able to submit anything to a court for example.

The firms pays for access. They can do whatever they want with their codes because they don't pay per person. They pay per pull/print. FWIW, Westlaw and Lexis both donate heavily to PI type firms. You have no idea whether or not your research is costing them a lot...or even anything.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby ben4847 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:58 pm

seatown12 wrote:
blowhard wrote:
seatown12 wrote:I don't think it's unethical; the school is paying for Westlaw (and everything else) with your [loan] money.


Actually, the school pays nothing for Westlaw. It's given free to
hook you and therefore comes with restrictions. Using it during your internship likely violates the terms of service and is unethical. They make exceptions for some kinds of public interest but otherwise you can't use it. Doing so is an honor code violation at some schools.

Violating terms of service =/= unethical, but that is obviously an important consideration.


Since when is it unethical to breach a contract? I suppose if you are trying to fool them it is.

So just tell your class's Westlaw rep that you plan on breaching the contract, and let them deal with it. If they're anything like most of your classmates, they'll shrug and think, "what a douche."

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby 03121202698008 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:59 pm

ben4847 wrote:
seatown12 wrote:
blowhard wrote:
seatown12 wrote:I don't think it's unethical; the school is paying for Westlaw (and everything else) with your [loan] money.


Actually, the school pays nothing for Westlaw. It's given free to
hook you and therefore comes with restrictions. Using it during your internship likely violates the terms of service and is unethical. They make exceptions for some kinds of public interest but otherwise you can't use it. Doing so is an honor code violation at some schools.

Violating terms of service =/= unethical, but that is obviously an important consideration.


Since when is it unethical to breach a contract? I suppose if you are trying to fool them it is.

So just tell your class's Westlaw rep that you plan on breaching the contract, and let them deal with it. If they're anything like most of your classmates, they'll shrug and think, "what a douche."


Some would argue its always unethical to breach...or at least to enter into a K with the intention of breaching. (This isn't an efficient breach kind of situation.) In this particular case, they turn off your access so you have to specifically lie about why you need access to induce them into giving you access... That seems unethical to me. In reality, even if you didn't have to lie to them its less of a breach of the ToS and more you're stealing WL's IP. You have a license which you are exceeding.

What does telling a student rep have anything to do with it? That doesn't release you from your agreement with Westlaw. Nor can they grant you access...you have to fill out the online form.
Last edited by 03121202698008 on Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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romothesavior
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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby romothesavior » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:04 pm

Are you guys serious? This is highly unethical. Not sure what kind of trouble you'd get in, but both Westlaw and schools are explicit not to do it.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby 03121202698008 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:07 pm

romothesavior wrote:Are you guys serious? This is highly unethical. Not sure what kind of trouble you'd get in, but both Westlaw and schools are explicit not to do it.


Thank you for being another (ethical) voice of reason.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:40 pm

What do you mean by "public firm?" If it's a non-profit then Westlaw will explicitly permit you to use your student account.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby 03121202698008 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:51 pm

dixiecupdrinking wrote:What do you mean by "public firm?" If it's a non-profit then Westlaw will explicitly permit you to use your student account.


I read public firm to be a for-profit firm that brings PI-type cases...e.g. § 1983 actions and employment discrimination. Of course, OP's terminology could be off.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby romothesavior » Thu Feb 02, 2012 7:00 pm

dixiecupdrinking wrote:What do you mean by "public firm?" If it's a non-profit then Westlaw will explicitly permit you to use your student account.

You better check on that, because I worked for the government and it was a big no-no.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 02, 2012 7:07 pm

I used my school's during my judicial internship to get Westlaw Next (and also all summer to research judges I was applying to for clerkships), and no one said a word. But I guess they could have all just been condoning my deeply unethical behavior.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby 03121202698008 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 7:10 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I used my school's during my judicial internship to get Westlaw Next (and also all summer to research judges I was applying to for clerkships), and no one said a word. But I guess they could have all just been condoning my deeply unethical behavior.


This is explicitly prohibited. Our rep told us to use our school account to get a framework for our search if unsure but that we then had to re-run the search and read everything under the court's account. The court's rep flat-out said we'd better not get caught using our school account.

You are allowed to use it to research judges, research for prof, write Note, etc.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 02, 2012 7:20 pm

blowhard wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I used my school's during my judicial internship to get Westlaw Next (and also all summer to research judges I was applying to for clerkships), and no one said a word. But I guess they could have all just been condoning my deeply unethical behavior.


Our rep told us to use our school account to get a framework for our search if unsure but that we then had to re-run the search and read everything under the court's account.


If they're already allowing you to do the bulk of your research to get the "framework" right then the whole "explicity prohibited" meme seems pretty inconsistent. By the time you got the framework right you've more or less gotten the results you wanted. No? Blurry line at best, that people may or may not cross with no problems.

I wonder how common an issue this is cause I have heard nothing explicity stated by my rep or school? Interesting topic.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby 03121202698008 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 7:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
blowhard wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I used my school's during my judicial internship to get Westlaw Next (and also all summer to research judges I was applying to for clerkships), and no one said a word. But I guess they could have all just been condoning my deeply unethical behavior.


Our rep told us to use our school account to get a framework for our search if unsure but that we then had to re-run the search and read everything under the court's account.


If they're already allowing you to do the bulk of your research to get the "framework" right than the whole "explicity prohibited" meme seems pretty inconsistent. By the time you got the framework right you've more or less gotten the results you wanted. No? Blurry line at best, that people may or may not cross with no problems.


The idea was that you were still learning to use Westlaw by figuring out the search...and your employer shouldn't be penalized for you not knowing the platform. By figuring out the search I mean you get topic X and have no idea what to search. Not you figured out the specific words to pull and which 5 cases you wanted to read. The real money is in reading the cases...not necessarily the searching.

Pretty sure this also violated the ToS...but at least it was sanctioned by Westlaw.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby ben4847 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 7:43 pm

Last summer, they never turned mine off. But the company I worked for has lots of money- they can afford it.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 02, 2012 9:01 pm

blowhard wrote:
dixiecupdrinking wrote:What do you mean by "public firm?" If it's a non-profit then Westlaw will explicitly permit you to use your student account.


I read public firm to be a for-profit firm that brings PI-type cases...e.g. § 1983 actions and employment discrimination. Of course, OP's terminology could be off.


Then you read my post incorrectly. I will be working for a Public Defender's Office. That's about as "public" and "non-profit" as you can get.

(For the record: I meant the word "firm" in the economic sense -- not a laymen's sense.)

This thread turned out to be worth the effort.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby 03121202698008 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 9:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
blowhard wrote:
dixiecupdrinking wrote:What do you mean by "public firm?" If it's a non-profit then Westlaw will explicitly permit you to use your student account.


I read public firm to be a for-profit firm that brings PI-type cases...e.g. § 1983 actions and employment discrimination. Of course, OP's terminology could be off.


Then you read my post incorrectly. I will be working for a Public Defender's Office. That's about as "public" and "non-profit" as you can get.

(For the record: I meant the word "firm" in the economic sense -- not a laymen's sense.)

This thread turned out to be worth the effort.


It's not a firm then...it's an office. In the legal world, firm has a special connotation. I'm not sure if that's included in the permissible uses but for some reason I think it's not.

http://lawschool.westlaw.com/shared/marketinfodisplay.asp?code=MI&id=322 says that only nonprofits are permitted. http://news.lib.uchicago.edu/blog/2011/05/04/summer-access-to-westlaw-and-lexisnexis/ specifically explains that public defenders offices are not 501(c)(3) organizations. If true, then it would not be permitted if Westlaw strictly adheres to the definition of nonprofit.

http://www.pslawnet.org/nonprofitpublicinterestcareers explains that at least some are considered government agencies.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 02, 2012 9:33 pm

blowhard wrote:
It's not a firm then...it's an office. In the legal world, firm has a special connotation. I'm not sure if that's included in the permissible uses but for some reason I think it's not.

http://lawschool.westlaw.com/shared/marketinfodisplay.asp?code=MI&id=322 says that only nonprofits are permitted. http://news.lib.uchicago.edu/blog/2011/05/04/summer-access-to-westlaw-and-lexisnexis/ specifically explains that public defenders offices are not 501(c)(3) organizations. If true, then it would not be permitted if Westlaw strictly adheres to the definition of nonprofit.

http://www.pslawnet.org/nonprofitpublicinterestcareers explains that at least some are considered government agencies.


I asked the Lexis Rep and they got back really fast. According to Lexis:

You would be able to have summer access at the Public Defender's Office. The only one they try to really regulate is students working in private firms, but even then there are possible work arounds.

They'll likely put out the link to register for summer access in March. I'll be sending out emails and if you need any help registering or any research questions, let me know.

Have a great night


Blowhard, even though you're wrong I'm still happy you chimed in. I thought this would be a see of people saying "DO IT" or "DON'T." It turned out to be quite mixed. Also, thanks for the Westlaw link. They immediately approved the extension.

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Re: Ethical to use School's Westlaw during 1L internship?

Postby romothesavior » Thu Feb 02, 2012 9:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
blowhard wrote:
dixiecupdrinking wrote:What do you mean by "public firm?" If it's a non-profit then Westlaw will explicitly permit you to use your student account.


I read public firm to be a for-profit firm that brings PI-type cases...e.g. § 1983 actions and employment discrimination. Of course, OP's terminology could be off.


Then you read my post incorrectly. I will be working for a Public Defender's Office. That's about as "public" and "non-profit" as you can get.

(For the record: I meant the word "firm" in the economic sense -- not a laymen's sense.)

This thread turned out to be worth the effort.

Yeah, you made it sound like you're at a firm or a government office. That is a no-no, or at least it was at the government office I worked in last summer. But for a lot of PI places, they allow it. I think a lot of the confusion was surrounding where you are working. Never heard the term "public firm" used before.




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