Thursday, March 12, 2009

Legal Research

When I got to the office this morning I found an e-mail message asking a question (I get a lot of those). The question dealt with some rights between parties that arise under one of the uniform state laws. Tennessee doesn't have any case law interpreting this particular provision.

Here's the catch - since it's a uniform state law there may be case law in other jurisdictions that would be persuasive authority. In order to know the answer, research must be done in all the states that have adopted that law.

Now most small firms who have Lexis or Westlaw accounts can only afford the package that includes their state and, perhaps, federal cases from their circuit. Only the big firms can afford all states or all federal. So, if a client comes to a little firm (which saves them money) and the little firm doesn't have access to the required database, can the little guy take the case?

In the case that was presented to me there is a large entity on the other side that would likely head to a big Nashville firm. Without doing the work up front to know I would run the risk of the big firm blowing the case out of the water simply because they can do more up front research.

Fortunately, I have access to more resources than most of the little guys, so it won't be a problem if I take this case. But this does illustrate a fundamental unfairness in the current system - which tilts the table against little firms and in favor of big firms. While the TBA and the ABA all profess their support of the sole practitioner, the rules make it ever more difficult for sole practitioners to survive.

On a final note, before I step off the soap box, since the law of all 50 states is now mostly uniform, why doesn't a license to practice in one state permit you to practice in another?


No comments: