Miami Firm Says LexisNexis Hits Lawyers With "Deceptive" Fees

Without search engine LexisNexis at their fingertips, lawyers would have to walk to their local law libraries and pull down those impressive monochromatic tomes used to decorate the walls in personal injury firms' TV ads. Legal life, in other words, would grind to a halt without services like Lexis.

But according to one Miami firm, Lexis for years has been nailing attorneys nationwide with thousands in charges for "maintenance plans" that actually do nothing. "It is a needless add-on charge billed to longtime customers," attorney Reuven Herssein writes in his complaint.

LexisNexis's media office didn't respond to two messages Riptide left for comment on Herssein's suit, which was filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

Herssein bought LexisNexis' legal software -- which includes PCLaw, Time Matters, and Billing Matters programs -- in 2007 for his North Miami-based firm.

The problem began in 2010, Herssein says, when LexisNexis informed everyone who had bought its legal software that unless they started paying a new "Annual Maintenance Plan" for each user in their office, the software would stop working.

The software worked fine before then, Herssein says, which leads him to believe the new mandatory fee is nothing more than a way to force customers to pay up or face the pricey prospect of ditching LexisNexis and buying a whole new system.

Those fees -- $360 per year plus $155 per user -- can pile up. Herssein's "maintenance" bill last year tallied more than $4,000.

Herssein's complaint isn't the first lodged against Lexis and its parent company, Reed Elsevier, for excessive fees. A number of academics started a protest group called the Cost of Knowledge to pressure the firm to charge less for access to scientific journals.

Herssein has asked the courts to certify a class action against the company.

Check out the full complaint here:

Lexis Complaint

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink