Today Reuters is reporting that TR revealed plans to cut 3,200 jobs — roughly 12 percent of its workforce — by 2020 in an attempt to cut costs and “streamline the business.” As part of the streamlining, the company said it planned to reduce the number of offices around the world by 30 percent to 133 locations by 2020. Thomson Reuters set a target to reduce its capital expenditure to between 7 percent and 8 percent of revenue in 2020 from 10 percent currently. The company has set aside $2 billion of the $17 billion proceeds from the Blackstone deal to make purchases to help grow its legal and tax businesses. For earlier coverage of TR layoffs in Legal see this LLB post.

Last summer complaints were circulating that LexisNexis was jacking up shipping charges again, at least for some titles. Well, here’s another reason for watching your LexisNexis print invoices. Reports on law-lib indicate that LexisNexis is now automatically charging $2 for a paper invoice for Lexis Advance, is not itemizing this surcharge, and hence has (unlawfully?) unilaterally increased contractually specified Lexis Advance charges. Talk about nickel-and-diming your install base. Just how desperate is LexisNexis?

Jean O’Grady reports on widespread layoffs at Thomson Reuters Legal: “Over the past few weeks multiple sources have confirmed to me that executives, managers and staff across TR have been ‘invited to find new employers.’ Some of the people impacted have been fixtures in the legal publishing and tech industry for decades. … Next year many familiar TR faces will be absent from the conference rooms and exhibit halls at the ILTA, Legal Tech and AALL conferences. I guess we can all understand the need to ‘rightsize’ an organization but the timing … right before the holidays is brutal.”

Unfortunately “right before the holidays” a/k/a just ahead of Q4 and year-end financial results is not unusual. For details, see this Dewey B Strategic post.

In mid-2017, CRIV received complaints about LexisNexis sales reps who were tying the acquisition of the Company’s print and ancillary products to licensing Legal Advance. After three failed attempts to work with an uncooperative LexisNexis, CRIV brought the matter to the attention of AALL’s Executive Board. The Spring 2018 Executive Board meeting records CRIV’s recommendation that AALL issue a “statement of disapproval.” The Executive Board took up the issue in executive session so we have no official minutes on CRIV’s recommendation. But the Executive Board did take action.

On June 7, 2018, AALL sent Mike Walsh, CEO of LexisNexis Legal, a letter calling for the company to cease tying the acquisition of its print and ancillary products to licensing Legal Advance or face “legal or commercial action.” About four weeks later AALL also had an unsatisfactory meeting with LN executives. Because of that meeting the ball is back in AALL’s court.

Taking “legal or commercial action” is something only the Executive Board can do. Initially I thought the Executive Board would take action at its November 2018 board meeting but the matter wasn’t even on the board meeting’s agenda. This silence from our association’s elected officers makes me wonder … is our association planning to take any action — “legal or commercial” — or do nothing? So what’s up?

From the abstract for Jason Zarin, A Comparison of Case Law Results between Bloomberg Law’s ‘Smart Code’ Automated Annotated Statutes and Traditional Curated Annotated Codes (2017):

Traditional annotated codes provide an edited list of cases, organized by topic, that cite a particular statute. Bloomberg Law has recently implemented “Smart Code,” a computer-generated citator to the United States Code. The computer-generated Smart Code is designed to compete with traditional edited annotated codes in that it uses an automated and algorithmic process to classify the cases that cite a statute into a set of ninety topics. Using legal research examples in a variety of topics of increasing abstraction, results using Smart Code are compared to traditional annotated codes (United States Code Service and United States Code Annotated) as well as to specialized looseleafs (e.g., Standard Federal Tax Reporter).

From the Oct. 30, 2018 press release: “Bloomberg Law today announced the formation of its Bankruptcy Innovation Board, which will provide input and consult on the digital Bloomberg Law: Bankruptcy Treatise and inform the direction of future technology-enhanced financial restructuring and insolvency tools on the Bloomberg Law platform. The board’s membership consists of leading bankruptcy attorneys from law firms, academia, and the judiciary.”

Very interesting development. I wonder whether Bloomberg Law will organize similar innovation boards for BNA labor and employment treatises, IP treatises, etc.

Here’s the abstract for Neil Thurman & Richard Fletcher, Are Newspapers Heading Towards Post-Print Obscurity? A Case Study of the Independent’s Transition to Online-Only (Oct. 21, 2018):

With print circulations in decline and the print advertising market shrinking, newspapers in many countries are under pressure. Some — like Finland’s Taloussanomat and Canada’s La Presse — have decided to stop printing and go online-only. Others, like the Sydney Morning Herald, are debating whether to follow. Those newspapers that have made the switch often paint a rosy picture of a sustainable and profitable digital future. This study examines the reality behind the spin via a case study of The Independent, a general-interest UK national newspaper that went digital-only in March 2016. We estimate that, although its net British readership did not decline in the year after it stopped printing, the total time spent with The Independent by its British audiences fell 81%, a disparity caused by huge differences in the habits of online and print readers. This suggests that when newspapers go online-only they may move back into the black, but they also forfeit much of the attention they formerly enjoyed. Furthermore, although The Independent is serving at least 50% more overseas browsers since going online-only, the relative influence on that growth of internal organizational change and external factors — such as the “Trump Bump” in news consumption — is difficult to determine.

Breaking legal news and analysis are critical for legal professionals as they drive success for their businesses and clients. Law360 is a key element of our growth strategy because it adds legal news and analysis, a crucial part of an attorney’s workflow and a key entry point to legal research. — Bob Romeo, (then) CEO of LexisNexis Research and Litigation Solutions, March 20, 2012.

LexisNexis solidified its hold on the digital legal news market when it acquired Law360 in 2012. The company ratcheted up its market dominance with last month’s launch of Nexis Data as a Service. Can anyone compete with LexisNexis in the legal news and news analytics space?

Bloomberg Law and Fastcase are moving into the digital legal news market. Bloomberg Law’s move is coming in the form of the staggered conversion of its topical print BNA Law Reports into a news platform targeted for specific practice groups as the company moves to a digital-only publishing model. When completed, BLaw will be well positioned to compete in the speciality law marketplace for legal news but the company will not really be competing with LexisNexis for legal news and analytics in the general law marketplace.

Legal research isn’t just about logging into an online service and running searches. It’s also about taking an active interest in developments that clients care about. Legal news means covering the stories behind new cases filed, analytics, new judicial opinions, passed bills, and rulemaking. Lawyers have to stay as informed as their clients, and our partnership with Law Street Media will be an important source of must-have information about the fast-changing practice of law. — Ed Walters, Fastcase CEO, October 24, 2018.

Fastcase has acquired and will relaunch the defunct legal news platform, Law Street, next year, as an enhanced daily news and analytics hub highlighting national and state litigation, regulatory developments and state bar news, and offering analytics driven by other Fastcase products. I seriously doubt Law Street will make all that much of a dent in LexisNexis’ dominant market position. One news outlet cannot really compete with LexisNexis’ multiple properties — Law360, Mlex and Knowledge Mosaic and partnerships with American Lawyer Media and the Wall Street Journal. Even if one takes into account Fastcase’s partnership with LexBlog’s new law blogs network, Fastcase still has a way to go to compete more directly with LexisNexis in the generalist law market.

But it is a start. I, for one, however, would have preferred if the company had entered into a partnership with an established legal news outlet like, for example, Courthouse News. Perhaps Fastcase will do so in addition to publishing Law Street.

Dr. Jonathan Tennant, UK; and Prof. Dr. Björn Brembs, Germany, filed a complaint with the EU Competition Authority. Here’s a snip:

We write to notify you of what we believe to be the anti-competitive practices of RELX Group in the scholarly publishing and analytics industry, based on the following two articles of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU):

  1. Article 101 of the Treaty, which prohibits agreements between two or more independent market operators which restrict competition; and
  2. Article 102 of the Treaty prohibits firms that hold a dominant position on a given market to abuse that position.

This complaint regarding RELX Group, and specifically its daughter company, Elsevier, is based on the following grounds:

  1. General problems within the scholarly publishing market sector that actively prohibit competition in the common market between EU member states (Article 101); and
  2. Abuse of a dominant position within this market (Article 102).

H/T Gary Price’s InfoDocket post.

News analytics appears to be on the rise and LexisNexis, the dominate player in legal news, intends to play its part in this new development. From yesterday’s press release:

Nexis® DaaS offers data-driven organizations distinct and differentiated advantages to harness big data’s potential:

  • Comprehensive source universe—Access to petabytes of data including global print, broadcast, web news and social commentary, company and industry data, regulatory and legal data.
  • Optimal data integrations—Delivery via flexible APIs providing normalized, XML-based, semi-structured data.
  • Robust enrichments—Enriched with multiple feature extractors and metadata related to more than 7000 subjects and industries.
  • Experienced big data partner—45 years of experience with content aggregation and multiple patents on machine learning, clustering and other big data applications decades before mainstream use.

“The law is not copyrightable. … Someone needs to stand up for the proposition that public law is in the public domain.” — Ed Walters, Fastcase CEO, Feb. 2016

Fastcase’s lawsuit against Casemaker can proceed ruled the 11th Circuit. [text] The lawsuit, now over two years old, started when Fastcase received a take-down notice for publishing the Georgia Administrative Rules and Regulations. Casemaker claimed they had exclusive rights to distribute, for commercial use, the Georgia Administrative Rules and Regulations. For an analysis of yesterday’s ruling, see Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites post.

On June 7, 2018, AALL sent Mike Walsh, CEO of LexisNexis Legal, a letter calling for the company to cease tying the acquisition of its print and ancillary products to licensing Lexis Advance or face “legal or commercial action.” About four weeks later AALL had an unsatisfactory meeting with LN executives. Because of that meeting the ball is back in AALL’s court. But is the LexisNexis matter on the Executive Board’s fall meeting agenda?

Hope so. Don’t know. But don’t think so. The matter does not appear as a specific agenda item. What does appear in the Fall Board Book is an opening presentation by Paula Goedert, a partner in the Chicago office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP where she chairs the Associations and Foundations Practice Group. But Goedert was not the attorney of record for the Walsh letter; James P. Fieweger of Michael Best & Friedrich was.

Kudos to Carl Malamud! The 11th Circuit appeals court has just overturned a lower court ruling and said that Georgia’s laws, including annotations, are not covered by copyright, and it is not infringing to post them online. From the opinion in Code Revision Commission v. Public.Resource.Org:

The OCGA annotations are created by Georgia’s legislative body, which has been entrusted with exercising sovereign power on behalf of the people of Georgia. While the annotations do not carry the force of law in the way that statutes or judicial opinions do, they are expressly given legal significance so that, while not “law,” the annotations undeniably are authoritative sources on the meaning of Georgia statutes. The legislature has stamped them “official” and has chosen to make them an integral part of the official codification of Georgia’s laws. By wrapping the annotations and the statutory text into a single unified edict, the Georgia General Assembly has made the connection between the two inextricable and, thereby, ensured that obtaining a full understanding of the laws of Georgia requires having unfettered access to the annotations. Finally, the General Assembly’s annual adoption of the annotations as part of the laws of Georgia is effected by the legislative process — namely bicameralism and presentment — that is ordinarily reserved for the exercise of sovereign power.

Thus, we conclude that the annotations in the OCGA are attributable to the constructive authorship of the People. To advance the interests and effect the will of the People, their agents in the General Assembly have chosen to create an official exposition on the meaning of the laws of Georgia. In creating the annotations, the legislators have acted as draftsmen giving voice to the sovereign’s will. The resulting work is intrinsically public domain material, belonging to the People, and, as such, must be free for publication by all.

As a result, no valid copyright can subsist in these works.

Reynen Court has convinced a dozen BigLaw firms to form a consortium focused on standardizing their needs for legal software including artificial intelligence and smart contracts. Once they’ve identified the needs, Reynen Court plans to develop the software these firms would benefit from. Their services automation platform will enable law firms to deploy a wide range of computing applications without exposing firm or client content to disparate third-party cloud environments. The start-up also hopes to accelerate inter-operability between and among legal technology applications.

Beginning in early 2019, the 60,000 members of the California Lawyers Association will have access to Fastcase according to this press release. This agreement brings Fastcase’s user population to 900,000 or approximately 70% of all licensed attorneys in the US.

Is Fastcase’s user population larger than Thomson Reuters? Larger than LexisNexis? Bloomberg Law? Wolters Kluwer? Can’t prove it but I think Fastcase is the largest legal search vendor by user population. With duopolies in both the general law market (Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis) and the speciality law market (Bloomberg Law and Wolters Kluwer), Fastcase is poised for a breakthrough.

For  some context, see Fastcase Rising on LLB.

“Today we are remaking how we cover the legal market,” wrote Bloomberg BNA editor in chief Cesca Antonelli in a recent email to employees announcing a major corporate reorganization and 46 staff layoffs. “The five groups that produce the bulk of Bloomberg Law news products will become two: one focused on beat reporting and one focused on what we are calling legal intelligence,” according to the email. As observed in Stumbling Toward Digital-only Legal Publishing, we have been dealing with the effects of the lead-up to this reorganization.

H/T to Jean O’Grady’s Dewey B Strategic post.

In the legal information marketplace two of our very expensive vendors are tying print acquisitions to digital licenses – LexisNexis in the general law market and Bloomberg Law in the specialty law market.  Is this the beginning of an industry-wide digital-only legal publishing movement?

Right now Fastcase and Casemaker are the only digital-only legal information providers in the marketplace but Bloomberg Law, which was digital-only until it acquired BNA, has explained to CRIV that it is moving in that direction and has been for about two years. LexisNexis started tying print to digital in the law firm marketplace about two years ago while offering no explanation to CRIV about its publishing strategy. No word or deed from Thomson Reuters in the general law market. Ditto Wolters Kluwer in the specialty market.  At least not yet.

Our very expensive legal information providers are stumbling towards a digital-only publishing model. Being digital-only is inevitable, I think, but the transition doesn’t have to be chaotic. Some best practices can be identified by mistakes BLaw and LexisNexis have already made. They include eliminating ambush-style sales policies like when a company (e.g., LexisNexis) drops bombshell take-it-or-leave-it demands during contract renewal talks without any advance notice or explanation.  Print sunsetting plans should be specific unlike when a company (e.g., BLaw) offers the continuation of print subscriptions without identifying when the print edition of affected titles will be eliminated.

Going digital-only happens only once. Since our very expensive legal information providers and our BigLaw library colleagues are heading in that direction, the rest of us must be prepared to follow. Resistance is futile. However, vendors can help law libraries make the transition by detailing their plans like Thomson Reuters did at the launch of Westlaw Edge by informing current Westlaw subscribers that Westlaw will be phased out in 2024. This is not a time for the typical dynamic — vendors act, law libraries react.

 

Bloomberg Law wants to get out of the print business (except, perhaps, for its treatise product line). I know of no BLaw press release announcing this fundamental change in publishing model but to its credit the Company explained its plans in some detail to CRIV earlier this year.

Last summer BLaw announced to CRIV that it was moving toward becoming a digital-only publisher because, the company explained, law libraries are moving away from print. True for law firms — 75% of total information budget is spent on electronic information.  Less so for academic law libraries — 44% of total information budget is spent on electronic information. And much less so for public sector law libraries — 35% of total information budget is spent on electronic information according to AALL statistics.

The transition from BNA Law Reports in print to the news platform is a major component of this strategy to reinvent the Company.  Not offering new Bloomberg Law online subscribers print materials for sale started some two years ago and that is another major component. Now BLaw is transitioning existing clients to its digital-only model. Or should I say, digital-almost-only model.

BLaw reported to CRIV that Tax Management Portfolios and Corporate Practice Series will continue in print for the time being. “No print sunset has been determined at this time. Subscribers will be notified in advance when an end date is determined.” Until that date is determined, BLaw is executing a sales policy similar to LexisNexis tying its print products availability to entering into a subscription for Lexis Advance. One difference: while LexisNexis has no coherent publishing strategy and is just trying to improve its bottom line by holding print hostage to digital, BLaw is trying to move to digital-only publishing by pricing some of its most valued print resources out of existence.

With regret, my county law library cancelled all BNA print and e-resources several years ago. We simply couldn’t afford to maintain our subscriptions. Now several of my Ohio county law library colleagues are grappling with BLaw demands as their print editions of BNA’s portfolio series come up for renewal.

For existing subscribers of BLaw BNA print portfolios, the Company now is requiring law libraries to subscribe to at least one seat for Bloomberg Law in order to have the privilege of subscribing to the print editions of Tax Management Portfolios and/or Corporate Practice Series for an additional expense. One Ohio county law library recently calculated that BLaw’s tying is almost a 300% increase over its cost for subscribing just to portfolios in print. That county law library, one of Ohio’s largest, cancelled its BNA print and did not subscribe to Bloomberg Law. So did another Ohio county law library. And a third, also one of Ohio’s largest county law libraries, will probably cancel if it does not receive some concessions from the Company. That’s how Ohio’s public sector is responding to BLaw.

I wonder how many other law libraries are simply walking away from BLaw in response to this new digital-almost-only sales policy. I guess subscriber cancellations in response to take-it-or-leave-it negotiations tactics is one way to reinvent yourself as a digital-only publisher. Unfortunately BLaw’s fundamental changes impact the law library marketplace unevenly.  Arguably private law firm libraries are more capable of paying the increased cost than either academic or public law libraries.