A Westlaw Tale

Paul recently blogged here about a news headline: “Westlaw rises to legal information fame by selling free information.”  The readers at the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages have written in to the paper with a number of comments.  If true, what might be the most interesting comment was written by an alleged longtime employee of West Publishing.  He writes:

“We had a book that just wasn’t selling, and the sales department was going crazy trying to push them out the door. Finally, a suggestion was made to change the cover and make it part of the California practice series. There are a lot of lawyers in California and virtually all of them had this series, which resembled, as I recall, a green encyclopedia. So how could we send all these California lawyers this book that they hadn’t ordered and make them pay for it? Well, normally if you get something that you didn’t order in the mail you can throw it away without paying, but there is an exception if the item is part of a series that you already bought. In that case, the recipient must either pay for the unsolicited item or send it back. In order to keep these attorneys from sending back this expensive book that nobody wanted, a new kind of box was designed with a strange diagonal “zipper.” Once unzipped, the cardboard laid flat with many fold lines and became a real puzzle. Its purpose was simply to be impossible to put back together once the box was opened! After having their secretaries struggle with it for awhile, virtually every attorney in California gave up and decided it was easier to just send a check.”

Don’t give up so easy!

To read all the comments in full, visit the City Pages site.

This entry was posted in Legal Publishing and tagged by Erika Wayne. Bookmark the permalink.

About Erika Wayne

Erika V. Wayne is deputy library director and lecturer in law at Stanford Law School. Along with George Wilson, Kate Wilko and Paul Lomio, Erika Wayne has co-taught Advanced Legal Research for 3 years. Erika's interest in Open Access dates back to the 1996 when she helped in the development of the Securities Class Action Clearinghouse -- the first court designated internet site for public posting of securities litigation filings. And, she hates to pay for *anything* that should be free. She has a law degree from Penn and a library degree from Illinois.

2 thoughts on “A Westlaw Tale

  1. Unbelievable. If I really did not want the book after opening it, I would have simply put it in a new box and sent it back. Did anybody do that??

  2. My understanding of the law on this issue is that if you receive an unsolicited item in the mail you are not obligated to send it back and you only have to pay for it if you use it. If the company wants the item back they have to send a call tag where a shipping service comes to your home or office and picks it up at their cost.

    It would be outrageous to think that a consumer would have to pay for an unordered item to be shipped back, no less take the trouble.

    Another point, there are 150,000+ attorneys in California. This sounds like something made up to slander West. Did anyone fact check this?

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