In the history of law library-vendor relations, Thomson Reuters traditionally has been viewed as “the evil vendor” for its long history of nasty B2B relations with law libraries due to the company’s past aggressive duopolistic business practices. No longer in my opinion. One clear impression I got from reading Feit Consulting’s 2019 Legal Information Vendor Market Survey Summary for Survey Respondents is that LexisNexis is the new evil vendor.

It takes a lot to replace Thomson Reuters for this “honor.”  Despite TR trying to gouge law libraries by attempting to charge as much as a 20% premium for Westlaw Edge and pricing Practical Law too high according to survey respondents, dissatisfaction with the functionality of LexisNexis’ search platform, pricing trends, and new tying tactics is so widespread and passionate among survey respondents that LexisNexis is clearly entrenched as our new evil vendor.

I’m not sure how LexisNexis ended up here.  Perhaps because of –

  • the decline in cost recovery practices for search services along with the reduction in the number of firms that provide both Westlaw and Lexis since 2008;
  • the 2011 not ready for prime time release of Lexis Advance;
  • the nearly annual corporate-wide reorganizations, and executive, managerial and account rep staff replacements (voluntary or not);
  • the perception that the company is now offering a search product inferior to Westlaw Edge (While most Feit survey respondents do not license Westlaw Edge yet a majority of Westlaw respondents say they will within the next 3 years.); and
  • the company’s new tying tactic leverages the popularity of its legal news products in an attempt to prop up Lexis Advance’s install base and revenue stream (And which appears to be backfiring according to the verbatim comments found in the Feit survey.).

My bottom line:  LexisNexis needs a turnaround specialist in its C suite.

Bob Ambrogi is reporting that Thomson Reuters is rolling out Precedent Analytics for Westlaw Edge users today. “Precedent Analytics lets users see the citation patterns of individual judges, revealing the cases, courts, judges and citation language they rely on in deciding different legal issues. It also shows the frequency with which judges have dealt with different issues,” writes Bob. Details on LawSites. See also this Dewey B Strategic post.

Bob Ambrogi is reporting that Thomson Reuters has withdrawn as an ABA TECHSHOW exhibitor this year. Bob reports:

Michael Abbott, vice president of global thought leadership and of the Legal Executive Institute at Thomson Reuters, is the executive who was responsible for the company’s decision not to exhibit at TECHSHOW this year.

Over the past year, he said, TR has been re-evaluating all trade shows it attends to consider how best to engage with the customers who attend those shows. “As we start to think about how best can we engage with the customers, this is one where we thought we’d go in a different direction,” he said.

TR participates in a number of trade shows and spends a large number of dollars in doing so, he noted. It is rethinking its strategy with regard to all of those shows, he said.

Makes one wonder if TR is considering doing the same for AALL’s annual meeting.

Michael Feit offers some tantalizing preliminary results from Feit Consulting’s 2019 Legal Information Vendor Market Survey. The survey found that 54% of Am Law 200 firms use either Lexis or Westlaw but not both. Firms that have gone sole search provider are more satisfied with the remaining vendor.

In another post, Feit reveals how satisfied firms are with their vendors generally. 70% of firms are moderately/extremely satisfied with Westlaw. Wolters Kluwer scores a 55% moderately/extremely satisfied response, Lexis 32% and Bloomberg 20%. In view of the satisfaction ratings, the preliminary results for firms considering cancellation at the next contract renewal is not surprising. 46% of firms are considering canceling Bloomberg, 33% of firms with Lexis, 14% of firms with Westlaw and 13% of firms with Wolters Kluwer are considering cancellation of those vendor contracts.

As 2019 commences, it looks like Westlaw and Wolters Kluwer are market leaders in their respective search markets — general for Westlaw, and specialist market for Wolters Kluwer. I wonder how much Lexis and Bloomberg’s recent product tying changes have contributed to their dismal performance in Feit Consulting’s 2019 Legal Information Vendor Market Survey.

On Nov. 29, 2018, CRIV conducted its Fall semiannual call with LexisNexis (reported in CRIV Blog on Dec. 18, 2018 here). CRIV tried to address two advocacy requests from law firms unable to renew their Law360 subscriptions without having a Lexis Advance contract. Here’s what LexisNexis said:

We’ve worked with Law Librarians and AALL over many years and deeply respect our longstanding relationship with this community. We see Law Librarians as critical collaborators in the journey to evolve our offerings and better serve all customers. It is in that same spirit that we’re engaging with AALL to fully understand the concerns that have been raised. Ultimately, our goal is to provide legal information and analytics that help lawyers cut through vast amounts of data to efficiently gain insights, make better decisions, and achieve the best outcomes possible.

We appreciated the time and effort the AALL leadership team put into sharing their insights on our products and pricing. We will certainly keep these perspectives in mind as we move forward. We also were grateful for the opportunity to discuss our integrated product strategy and our compliance process that includes internal and external legal review of all pricing and packaging prior to release to customers. Since pricing and packaging plans vary by customer type and are customized to meet specific customer needs, we encourage members to follow-up with their LexisNexis account representative with any questions regarding their firm’s specifics.

AALL leaders shared their “insights” in this June 7, 2018 letter to LN CEO Mike Walsh. That letter stated, among other important points that “The AALL Committee on Relations with Information Vendors (CRIV) his attempted to open a dialogue with LexisNexis regarding the impact of its anticompetitive policy on law firm libraries and on law firms. But, to date, LexisNexis’ response has been vague, incomplete, and unsatisfactory, evincing. no interest or intent to revoke or otherwise modify the practice in question.”

Nothing has changed; AALL leadership has yet to take action against LexisNexis.

From the abstract for Guy A. Rub, Amazon and the New World of Publishing, 14 ISJLP 367 (2018)

In 2012 the Department of Justice sued Apple and the major book publishers for their role in a conspiracy to raise the prices of eBooks. The publishers settled while the Apple case proceeded to trial in which the company was found liable for violating the Sherman Act. Chris Sagers’s upcoming book, Apple, Antitrust, and Irony (Harvard University Press) explores the conspiracy and the events that led Apple to orchestrate it. Through the Apple conspiracy, Sagers examines developments in antitrust law and competition policy in recent decades.

This essay offers several observations concerning Sagers’s comprehensive account, the Apple conspiracy, and mainly its aftermath. Analyzing that aftermath means focusing on the entity that was left in control of the market once the dust settled: Amazon.

The essay argues that Amazon’s dominance in the book and eBook markets is troubling and that shielding it from legal scrutiny is problematic. Nevertheless, it explains that while Amazon’s actions gradually push the major publishers out of the market, their potential demise is not necessarily bad. Technological changes reduced the value of many of the major publishers’ services to the point in which the publishers and Amazon are two types of intermediaries in a market that might need only one. As such, the conflict between Amazon and the major publishers is partly unavoidable as it is just another example of the tension between vested short-term interests and socially desirable long-term disruptive reforms.

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.