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Locked Up Behind a Cash Register
If ever there was an oligopoly, Wexis is it, and the two companies that share the $6.5 billion market for access to U.S. law fight hard to keep their locks on tight. The lawyers in the big law firms and the salesmen from West and Lexis maintain that those who need access to the law are able to get it at an affordable price, but that is FUD in the extreme.
Countless government lawyers, public interest lawyers, and solo practitioners are quick to point out that they are priced out of the market and cannot afford access to the tools they need for their job. For the rest of us, the law truly has been locked up behind a cash register, affordable only to those who can pay the enormous price. We are a nation of laws, but the laws are not publicly available. This is a fundamental issue for democracy, for if we are a nation of laws, we must be able to consult the cases and codes of our government.
But, this is more than just about democracy, this is about innovation. The “market” for legal information is poorly served with the ancient, clunky services provided by the two market leaders. The entry price into the legal market is millions of dollars to access primary legal materials that any grad student or young entrepreneur ought to be able to simply download to their laptop and use to create a better mousetrap.