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Lawyers Spend 17% of Workday on Legal Research

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It usually starts with a Google search.

The average lawyer spends between five and 10 hours each week on legal research, and they usually start by searching Google for key words and phrases.

After that, two-thirds of them will rely on free online resources for the bulk of their research.

Those are two nuggets from the ABA 2020 Profile of the Profession report.

“The typical lawyer spends, on average, 17 percent of his or her time conducting legal research,” according to the report. “When lawyers begin a research project, roughly one-third (38 percent) say they start with a general search engine like Google. Roughly another third (30 percent) start with a paid online resource and 10 percent start with a free state bar-sponsored legal research service. Most lawyers (65 percent) say they regularly use free online resources to conduct legal research, and nearly as many (57 percent) regularly use fee-based online resources for research.”

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Legal Research Tools

  • The average time spent on legal research has held steady in recent years. In 2019 it was 17 percent, in 2018 it was 18 percent, and in 2017 it was 16 percent.
  • Westlaw is by far the most popular paid online legal research service (49 percent), followed by Lexis Advance (28 percent).
  • FindLaw is the most popular free website (20 percent), followed by Fastcase and Cornell’s Legal Information Institute (18 percent each), government websites (15 percent) and Google Scholar (13 percent).
  • A surprising 44 percent still regularly use print materials for legal research. Five percent say they never use print materials during research.
  • The most popular online paid legal news service is Law360 (33 percent), followed by the Wall Street Journal (23 percent), ALM (7 percent) and Bloomberg News (6 percent).

Lawyers and Telecommuting

  • Pre-COVID, 55 percent of lawyers telecommuted at least some of the time. Forty-one (41 percent) did it at least once a week; six percent did it full-time.
  • Of the lawyers who didn’t commute before the pandemic, 72 percent said they just weren’t interested, five percent said their office policy prohibited telecommuting; three percent said they lacked the necessary technology.
  • Eighty-eight (88 percent) of telecommuting lawyers did it from home; 26 percent telecommute from hotels, 23 percent from vacation homes, and 14 percent from other offices; 11 percent from public places; 10 percent from coffee shops or cafes.

Smartphones and Devices

  • The most common smartphone for lawyers is the iPhone (79 percent), followed Android (18 percent) and Blackberry (one percent).
  • Seventy (70 percent) use their smartphone for email when they’re away from he office; 15 percent use a work laptop; 11 percent use a personal laptop or desktop computer. Two percent don’t check email outside the office.
  • Forty-one (41 percent) use a laptop as their primary work computer, up from 34 percent three years ago. More than half (57 percent) say their main work computer is a desktop, down from 64 percent three years ago. Only two percent use a tablet is their main computer.

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