Open Access in a Closed Universe: Lexis, Westlaw and the Law School


This paper considers issues of open access from the context of the broader legal information industry as a whole. The structure and contours of the legal information industry have shaped the availability of online open access publishing of legal scholarship. The competitive duopoly of Lexis and Westlaw is a particularly important factor in considerations of open access. Also significant is the relationship between Lexis and Westlaw and law schools, which form an important market segment for both Lexis and Westlaw. This paper begins by considering the important role information plays in the law. It then notes the increasing industry concentration that has occurred over the last 10-15 years among legal and other publishers. This industry concentration is believed to have contributed to significant price increases for scholarly journals generally. This industry concentration has potentially significant implications for questions of access, particularly in the current environment of increasing electronic dissemination of legal information. In addition to examining characteristics of the legal information industry, this paper also looks at the role of dominant players such as Lexis and Westlaw and the ways in which information dissemination has changed with the advent of electronic legal information services. Consumers of legal information, including law firms, law school users and the general public are also considered, particularly with respect to the implications of legal information industry organization and operation for questions of access to legal information.


Intellectual Property Law | Internet Law | Law and Society

Date of this Version

March 2006