Utah limits marketability of law students

At least, that might be the perspective of the law students.

That's it - addicted to computer based research tools!

The Utah State Bar has issued ethics advisory opinion 11-03 that reaches the following conclusions:

A lawyer who encourages or participates in a law student’s violation of the student’s contractual obligation to the electronic research service violates the Rules of Professional Conduct.

The opinion makes two assumptions that may in certain circumstances be subject to debate: (1) that a student that uses free access to Westlaw or Lexis while working for a private firm is acting in violation of his or her agreement with that entity; and (2) the hiring attorney knows or encourages the students use of the free research access.

An opinoin like this has to date been limited to the Utah State Bar, but the principles are not difficult to imagine being applied under any state’s bar rules.  I have always assumed that the reason Westlaw and Lexis gave law students free access to their research tools was to create dependence by the law student – much like the free samples that a dealer gives to the potential addict.  Thus, I do not think that Westlaw and Lexis really mind when a law student becomes more reliant on their products prior to leaving law school. 

In any event, govern yourself accordingly.

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