Update on Westlaw Unfair Treatment Post – Victory for Puerto Rican Law Schools

After a conversation with University of Puerto Rico Law School Dean Aponte-Toro and Professor José Julián Alvarez, Thomson Reuters executives decided to reinstate printer services to Puerto Rican law schools. Thanks to all who helped!

Luis Chiesa

Westlaw Puerto Rico Unfair Treatment

Given that issues related to animal law are directly and indirectly referenced in various Thomson Reuters casebooks and hornbooks, I want to share with Animal Blawg readers a couple of e-mails that highlight a policy adopted by the legal publishing giant in charge of Westlaw and Foundation Press that seems to discriminate against students at Puerto Rico law schools.

It appears that Thomson Reuters has stopped making printers and supplies available for free to law students in Puerto Rico although it still makes these supplies available to students in mainland law schools. A University of Puerto Rico professor decided to stop assigning Thomson Reuters books as required reading materials until Thomson Reuters changes its policy. I will do the same thing and will inform Thomson Reuters of my decision. Probably some of you agree that something should be done but can’t stop making use of books and materials published by Thomson Reuters. In that case, I urge you to contact Thomson Reuters executives to share your concerns about this policy. You can contact them here:





Here’s the text of the e-mails explaining the matter in more detail:


Dear Thomson Reuters executives:

The enclosed e-mail by [a third year law student] to you is self-explanatory. In it, he objects to your discriminatory policy  to discontinue providing the printers’ service (complimentary printers and supplies), which were installed at the local Puerto Rico law school libraries. That policy, it seems, is only directed against Puerto Rican law schools. I am also informed that all efforts by our head librarian at the University of Puerto Rico Law School to have Thomson Reuters end that discriminatory policy have been rebuffed.

Since Thomson Reuters seems only to understand cost benefit analysis (in its own idiosyncratic way), let me complicate that analysis a bit. If Thomson Reuters does not immediately change its discriminatory policy to make it non discriminatory (for instance, a  cap on sheets of papers and ink, applicable to all law schools everywhere on a per student basis), I will cease using Thomson Reuters texts in my courses, and will urge all colleagues at the four Puerto Rican law schools to do likewise. I will also bring the matter up with as many colleagues as I can in United States law schools.

I teach Constitutional Law, Federal Jurisdiction and Comparative Law. In Constitutional Law I have used Foundation Press  casebooks for 28 years, usually Gunther´s (now Sullivan & Gunther), but some years I also used Cohen’s. During those 28 years I also used some version of Nowak & Rotunda’s hornbook as an additional text. My sections usually have between 60-80 students. In Federal Jurisdiction I have always used Wright’s casebook, and many times I have also assigned Wright’s hornbook as an additional text to the 30-40 students in that course. In Comparative Law, which I have taught for some seven years,  I have used Schlesinger’s casebook and Glendon’s nutshell.  I usually have some 10-15 students in that course. Also, I have taught that course four times in January at the University of Ottawa Law School, and will be teaching it again this January, Those courses usually have 15-20 students. I had already informed Ottawa that I would be using the new edition of Schlesinger (Mattei et al.) next  January, but there is ample time to change that. And, as you well know, and Aspen and  Lexis-Nexis  representatives keep reminding me, there are many satisfactory susbtitutes for all of these texts.

I am sending a copy of this e-mail to Professors Kathleen Sullivan, John Oakley and Ugo Mattei, whose casebooks I would be forced to discontinue using, if you discriminatory policy remains in effect, and to Professors Owen Fiss and Carol Rose, of the editorial board of your University Casebook Series (Foundation Press). I will also forward it to as many stateside professors of Puerto Rican descent as I can identify. Professors Angel Oquendo (Connecticut), Pedro Malavet (Florida), Ediberto Román (Florida International) and Alberto Bernabe (John Marshall) immediately come to mind. All professors at Puerto Rico law schools will also receive a copy of this e-mail.

Since moral arguments have not been enough to make Thomson Reuters reconsider its discriminatory policy, I hope that math does the trick.


Professor of Law
University of Puerto Rico School of Law


Dear All:

First let me introduce myself:  I am a CPA with 30 years of experience, 22 of these with Andersen.  I am also your client (XXXXXXX) for audit, accounting and tax solutions. In addition, I am also a third year law student at the University of Puerto Rico Law School evening program.

I am writing to you because I became aware that Westlaw made a decision at the end of the 2008-2009 school year to discontinue providing the printers’ service (complimentary printers and supplies), which were installed at the local Puerto Rico law school libraries.  As you may imagine, Westlaw, as well as Lexis-Nexis printers at the local law school libraries are mostly used by full time students who spend most of their day and night at the schools, but more importantly, by underprivileged students with limited resources who do not have at their disposal computers, printers and other technological equipment.  Although we may take for granted that nowadays everybody has a computer and a printer, our local reality in Puerto Rico is still much different than the one for US law school students.  Based on a local law school census made, it seems that the canceling of this service was limited to the Puerto Rico law schools, as contacts have been made with US law schools and so far Westlaw has not limited the printers’ service at their libraries.

I was informed that the printers and related supplies use at the Puerto Rico law schools is proportionately much higher than the one at US law schools.  Should this be the case, it would be totally consistent with the fact that Puerto Rico law school students, as opposed to US law school students, have less resources at their disposal, as mentioned before, forcing them to use your research and printers’ services at the local law school libraries.

I am fortunate enough to have at my disposal the necessary equipment and supplies at my office and home, allowing me to perform research and print any documents therefore I am not affected by your decision to discontinue the printers’ service at the Puerto Rico law school libraries.  However, it is really sad for me to be witness to many of my fellow students’ hardships trying to come up with means to pay law school and sacrificing themselves and many times their families, which for many of us would be difficult enough; now having to add another obstacle forcing them to stay even longer hours at the law school libraries to be able to perform research only through Lexis-Nexis in order to be able to print through their printers after making long waits for their few printers.

As a CPA I know that many budget cut decisions are made on a cold-blooded cost/benefit basis.  I must assume that his was the case on the decision to discontinue the printers’ service at the Puerto Rico law school libraries.  Someone must have received the budget cost pressures down the line and may have made a quick analysis arriving at the conclusion that Puerto Rico law schools were a good and inoffensive start.  However, I have been related to Thomson Reuters as a client for many years and know that there is a commitment to the markets you serve and to the human realities that may escape unnoticed behind the cold blooded budget cut figures.  This is why I am giving you notice of an unfair treatment to Puerto Rico law schools and more specifically to the many underprivileged law students who really need your support.

Please make it happen; now they are just underprivileged students, some day they might be your clients as I am!!!

Best regards.



Posted by Luis Chiesa