Skip to content

Our Privacy Statement & Cookie Policy

All Thomson Reuters websites use cookies to improve your online experience. They were placed on your computer when you launched this website. You can change your cookie settings through your browser.


Legal information resources: free vs. paid

· 5 minute read

· 5 minute read

Have you thought about the real cost of free legal information resources?

When you are looking for legal information resources, you want to get a strong return on your investment. In difficult times, you want to reduce costs, but you don’t want to sacrifice quality for the bottom line. It is important to get the information you need, but at a cost that makes the most sense for your business and your clients.  

Weighing the benefits of paid legal information resources against the cost is important for every attorney’s practice. But what makes for a strong legal research resource? What is the return you can expect? How do you justify the cost when you need to ensure that ends meet?  

Jump to:

document icon   What are legal information resources?

pennant icon   The risks of free legal information resources

bullet list icon The benefits of paid legal information resources


Legal information resources most commonly refer to databases of case law, statutes, regulations, legal documents, and secondary sources.  

There are a wide variety of resources available, and the costs vary widely. It is important to review all of your options to determine the best solution for your business.  


There is only one consistent benefit to free legal information: the lack of a cost. That benefit, however, can be far outweighed by the potential risk to your clients and your business.  

Many providers of free legal information lack the resources to ensure information is up to date. They also lack depth and breadth of information, which means that you may need to waste time using several free services to get all of the information you need.  

Additionally, in the age where generative AI is readily available, attorneys may have already begun using free AI resources to find legal information because it can quickly search through large amounts of data and present the results in an easy-to-understand manner. However, according to a recent report by the Thomson Reuters Institute, firms are taking a “cautiously proactive approach” to using AI at work, with 3% of survey respondents saying they use generative AI right now, and 15% of respondents have warned employees against unauthorized generative AI use.  

When reviewing free providers of legal information, take a close look at where they get their information, how often it is updated, and who is updating the material. You want to ensure that the information you are using is accurate, so you do not put your clients or your practice at risk.  

Professional woman seated at laptop
What you should know before investing in an AI-powered legal tech provider

There are three important criteria to note when choosing AI-powered tools for your legal practice.

Read more


While every paid provider has unique features and benefits, there are some key benefits you should look for and expect. These include: 

Faster research

Not all search bars are created equal. Free services often have difficult-to-use search functionality. Paid providers have the resources to invest in a quality search experience that can help you find information quickly. This can save you time doing research 

Reliable information

It is absolutely crucial that you are getting the most comprehensive, authoritative, and up-to-date legal information available for your clients.  

And with the emergence of generative AI technologies, such as natural language processing and text generation, it is even more important that your source of legal information is expert-informed.  

Thomson Reuters services only leverage content within their platforms, and these platforms are constantly maintained and updated by expert attorney-editors, so you know it’s reliable. Free resources often don’t have the funding to ensure all information is up to date. 

Expert insights

In addition to the text of statutes, regulations, and cases, a paid option will often give you case summaries and notes to aid in your research. They may also have expertly informed AI technology to make your research easier, faster, and more reliable.  

When weighing the pros and cons of various legal information resources, think about what the cost will mean for your business. The features and benefits of a paid provider set the bar for legal research and can far outweigh the benefits of no-cost alternatives.  



Image of a businessman working with the text "Understand, the past, present and future of legal research"
The evolution of legal research

Helping the legal researcher feel confident that they’ve done enough.

Read white paper



More answers