Get your own Westlaw

Ever ask a law clerk to use his or her school provided Westlaw or Lexis access to research an issue for you? Ever do it while you were a student whether or not you were asked to do so?

Apparently, in Utah, the practice is becoming an epidemic to the point that the state bar issued an ethics advisory opinion denouncing  the practice. [HT: Legal Skills Prof Blog via Legal Blog Watch]. Of course, such usage of either service is a violation of terms of service. The opinion itself decries making clerical employment contingent upon the student using the service to save the employer fees.

Numerous students have reported that practicing attorneys have conditioned initial or continuing employment as a law clerk upon the student’s violation of the agreement with the research services. In other instances, lawyers have knowingly used information retrieved from the electronic services in violation of the student’s contractual agreement.

In the analysis, the opinion states that a lawyer “has no expectation that the law clerk will breach the contractual obligations for the benefit of the lawyer” and says she has an obligation to prevent such a breach. Not doing so is a violation of Utah’s RPC 5.3 and 8.4(c), which mirror Michigan’s (except it’s 8.4(b) here).

Is this practice rampant in Michigan? (Like anyone would admit it.) Should the State Bar of Michigan issue such a warning?


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