Since the foreshadowed demise of Lexis and Westlaw classic versions back in 2010 and 2011, I’ve been expecting to see the use of multimedia by our very expensive digital legal publishers in their newer search service platforms because it could be a transformative value-add-on for the traditional text-only electronic delivery of legal information. LexisNexis’ The Wagstaffe Group Practice Guide: Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial embeds 150+ short videos within the content of the work when you subscribe to the publication on Lexis Advance. LexisNexis press release. It appears, however, that the videos may not be embedded in a standalone eBook edition of this work. The work’s blurb notes “The eBook versions of this title feature links to Lexis Advance for further legal research options. Video content and links are exclusively available with a subscription to this title on Lexis Advance.” That’s disappointing but not unexpected; both Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis require a subscription to their search service to access resources linked to in their eBooks.
H/T to Bob Ambrogi’s LawSite post. See also Jean O’Grady’s Treatises are not dead they are just being transformed. Lexis Launches First Video Treatise. Can the Gamified Treatise Be Far Behind? — Joe
On Lextalk, LexisNexis makes an obvious distinction: it offers resources low-cost search services do not provide. In a nutshell, Low-Cost Legal Research = Low-Value Results. LexisNexis Equips You with Much, Much More (March 18, 2017) claims that Lexis Advance is simply better because of its offerings (even if you don’t need the resources, tools and other value-add-ons). No metrics, no comparison of search engine performance, simply an unsubstantiated warning to lawyers that “cost savings usually equals case-law light,” meaning as displayed below, “low-cost can cost you.” See also Lextalk’s Low-Cost Legal Research: Go Cheap, Get Gaps. Go LexisNexis, Gain Confidence (Apr. 5, 2017).
In LexisNexis Comes Out Swinging Against Lower-Cost Legal Research Services, the Lawyerist’s Lisa Needham makes a perceptive observation: “What LexisNexis seems to overlook in their eagerness to go after everyone else is that it merely highlights how much they see things like Fastcase and Google Scholar as competition. If you’re scared enough to mount an entire campaign about how great you are and how terrible other services are, you’ve pretty much already acknowledged that they represent a legitimate threat. Fastcase and Casemaker should be nothing but proud to be highlighted in this fashion.”
Competition is definitely increasing in the small law market with Lexis, Westlaw and Fastcase in a virtual tie in the small law market and it does look like Lexis is mounting a campaign to acquire a larger install base in it. Lextalk recently published posts such as Texas Legal Research: 4 Ways to Get It Done Quickly, Thoroughly, Massachusetts Legal Research: 4 Ways to Get It Done Quickly, Thoroughly and Illinois Legal Research: 4 Ways to Get It Done Quickly, Thoroughly, all of which were published on April 25, 2017. Each post offers a discount for Lexis Advance that is limited to any attorney in a law firm with 1 – 50 attorneys. So has Lexis been losing ground to Casemaker and Fastcase in the Texas, Massachusetts and Illinois small law market? — Joe
End note: Members of the state bars of Texas, Massachusetts and Illinois receive Fastcase access as a membership benefit.
At the close of 2016, Thomson Reuters reported that the operating profit margin excluding fourth quarter charges for Thomson Reuters Legal was 30%. For Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting, the operating profit margin excluding fourth quarter charges was 20%. This 10 percentage point difference is not atypical in the Company’s annual financial reports for both divisions. Some years the difference is even greater. But why?
I believe there are sufficient similarities to compare these two markets. Consumers in both markets are, for example, information and analytics intensive professionals. Both markets acquire similar information resources with (presumably) similar publishing costs. And both markets are dominated by a small number of very large and expensive value-adding suppliers who offer a similar mix of resources and services in print and digital formats.
Is the answer to the question “why?” that Thomson Reuters’ faces stiffer competition from specialty law publishers like Wolters Kluwer and Boomberg BNA to produce a 10% percentage point profit margin differential? Or is it that tax and accounting information consumers are better price negotiators than we are? I think both come into play. But since one can negotiate better pricing — one has greater bargaining power — in a more competitive market, competition from well-entrenched specialty tax and accounting providers probably is the primary reason Thomson Reuters’ profit margin is 10 percentage points lower that its legal division.
Being privately held, we have no financial data for Bloomberg BNA but we do for Wolters Kluwer. In 2016, Wolters Kluwer’s operating profit margin for its Tax & Accounting division was 26.9%, almost 7 percentage points better that Thomson Reuters’ Tax & Accounting division. One can almost say that Thomson Reuters is an also-ran in the tax and accounting market. Of course, one can also say that Wolters Kluwer is also almost an also-ran in the more general law and regulatory market because that market is dominated by LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters. (Wolters Kluwer reported an operating profit margin of only 12% for its Legal & Regulatory division. Remember, Thomson Reuters Legal reported a 30% profit margin.)
In a practice I would recommend to library budget managers because of the insights to be gained, I have followed the financial reporting of RELX Group (for LexisNexis), Thomson Reuters (for TR Legal) and Wolters Kluwer for several years now, since the beginnings of the Great Recession in fact. This information is handy to have for background purposes when representatives from our very expensive value-adding providers of law and law-related information knock on your office door to discuss their latest offer. — Joe
Spurred by customer complaints about the difficulty they experienced navigating BLaw, Bloomberg Law has rolled out a streamlined user interface for conducting searches and finding specific types of content. For much more, see Bob Ambrogi’s In Major Redesign, Bloomberg Law Streamlines Its Search Interface. — Joe
From Connie Crosby’s, (President of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL)) letter to Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada wherein she explains the concern Canadian law librarians have about the possibility that the annual Statutes of Canada will stop being published in print:
Recordkeeping is an important foundation of any advanced democracy. In Canada, the Publication of Statutes Act and its regulations were designed to ensure that all Canadians were provided with long term access to archival versions of our statutes. This law was necessary at the time to ensure that the medium chosen (paper) conformed to the best standards known at the time for archival formats. In a common law system history matters; this means that all citizens are entitled to long term access to our statutes, and the government must keep this squarely at front of mind at all times.
The question is, what law is necessary today to ensure that the medium chosen (digital) conforms to the best standards known at the time for archiving?
And on CALL recommendations in the Crosby letter:
If the government continues on the path towards “digital only” publication of the Statutes of Canada, we would encourage you to REPLACE the Publication of Statutes Act with a comprehensive plan that considers:
maintaining a small print run for long-term preservation purposes;
the future of the Canada Gazette, and in particular the Canada Gazette Part Three which provides our only official online version of annual statutes, as well as the helpful Table of Proclamations;
the future of the Table of Public Statutes. This Table was published as a stationary publication in the Statutes of Canada each year. The online version on Justice Laws is not sustainable in its current format – an annual archived version could be contemplated;
what will be the official version of our Statutes of Canada moving forward in a digitalage?
a way to maintain the side-by-side, English/French comparison, which can be an important part of some statutory interpretation exercises, while still meeting accessibility requirements.
H/T to and for more, see Michel-Adrien Sheppard’s Slaw post. — Joe
So this morning’s email from the Land of 10,000 Invoices said, “Thomson Reuters is conducting a survey to gather your feedback as a valued customer.” OK, what the hell. Sometimes taking a vendor survey is revealing. From the survey’s first page display comes the first question:
Thank you for taking the time to participate in our survey. The survey is brief and should take around 5-7 minutes to complete. Your opinions will help us ensure that we are providing the best possible solutions and services.
What best describes your role?
Clerk of Court
Court Administrator/Court Manager
Management Information Systems (MIS) Director
Other (please specify) ____________
And when I specified “Law Librarian” the response I received was “We thank you for your time spent taking this survey. Your response has been recorded.” At least the survey took less than a minute. File this under “Friday Fun from Thomson Reuters.” I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get too deep into the survey because of the listed job titles. Can’t the “answer company” manage its email lists better for targeting surveys? — Joe
Westlaw carries the full text of the sixth edition of the National Survey of State Laws online. Therein lies the problem. In addition to not stating online that the sixth edition has been superceded by the much more recent seventh edition (which Westlaw is going to publish online), the compiliers of the State Laws Survey have released two updates and four (or is it five?) new chapters that are not online. Bottom line: if you are using the National Survey of State Laws on Westlaw, you are searching eight-year-old topical state laws surveys. Make a note of that, researchers, at least until the seventh edition is online.
Time for the folks in the Land of 10,000 Invoices to get the seventh edition of this valuable resource uploaded and to keep it updated once it is. Perhaps Lexis or BNA can do a better publishing job for this title.– Joe
PS: A reader has commented that the seventh edition of the National Survey of State Laws is available, apparently since Jan. 12, 2016, on HeinOnline.
As a quick follow-up to my earlier post titled 10,000 documents: Is there a flaw in West Search? (March 20, 2017), it appears that a West reference attorney has confirmed my conclusion that Westlaw does not offer as comprehensive a searching capability as Lexis.
In reading Mary Whisner’s (Reference librarian, Gallagher Law Library, University of Washington School of Law) research paper Comparing Case Law Retrievals, Mid-1990s and Today, Appendix B records an exchange between Whisner and a West reference attorney. Here’s the pertinent parts:
11/18/2016 01:14:35PM Agent (Anna Wiles): “Those searches seem to be maxing out.”
11/18/2016 01:14:51PM Agent (Anna Wiles): “Sometimes, the algorithm will cut off before 10,000.”
11/18/2016 01:23:26PM Agent (Anna Wiles): “If you run the search in all states and all federal, it will max out because it is a broad search.”
11/18/2016 01:23:53PM Agent (Anna Wiles): “If you narrow by a jurisdiction, the results will not max out.”
But Whisner was attempting to perform a fairly comprehensive search. Note that West Search sometimes will max out at under 10,000 documents too according to the West staffer.
More evidence that in an attempt to find the Holy Grail of legal research — the uber precise search result — West Search may have sacrificed comprehensiveness. — Joe
10,000 documents is an awful lot. Truly a low precision, high recall search. But sometimes, one starts off searching very broadly because Westlaw and Lexis Advance provide a “search within results” option to narrow down initial search output. While I do not perform many broad searches in Westlaw, I have never once seen a figure higher than 10,000 documents in my search results. I have, however, seen “10,000+” documents in equally broad Lexis Advance searches on the same topic. Unfortunately 10,000 documents appears to be a search results limit in Westlaw.
If an initial search pulls up 10,000 documents in Westlaw, there is no reason to believe all Westlaw documents identified by one’s search are really all the potentially relevant documents in the Westlaw database. Searching within the initial 10,000 documents search results would be, therefore, based on a seriously flawed subset of the Westlaw database, one defined by West Search, not one’s search logic. This is not the case in Lexis Advance where a broad search may yield 10,000+ documents for searching within initial results. If this is indeed a flaw in West Search’s output, one must conclude that Lexis Advance offers more comprehensive searching of its database than Westlaw. — Joe
Here. See also Bonnie Hein’s blog post. — Joe
Law bloggers frequently cite to primary sources but most offer no links to them because the sources they use reside behind a paywall, be it Bloomberg, LexisNexis or Thomson Reuters. For LexBlog bloggers, the paywall problem has been resolved by the integration of Fastcase’s legal search service into LexBlog’s WordPress platform. Now clicking on a LexBlog link will display within the same browser interface primary law sourced by Fastcase. For details, see Kevin O’Keefe’s LexBlog launches Fastcase integration. — Joe
Hoping to represent a class of consumers who bought LN’s New York Landload-Tennat Law (aka the Tanbook), the law firm of Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph brought a Feb. 23 complaint against the publisher in Manhattan Supreme Court.
“Rather than an authoritative source of state statutes, laws and regulations, the Tanbook, which is represented by the defendant as complete and unedited, is instead, at least as pertains to those involving rent regulated housing in New York rife with omissions and inaccuracies, rendering it of no value to the attorneys, lay people, or judges who use it,” the 25-page complaint states.
Details at Class Calls LexisNexis Publication Totally Useless (Courthouse News Service). Hat tip to and see also Jean O’Grady’s Dewey B Strategic post. — Joe
SSRN, the social science and humanities repository, has been acquired by Elsevier. Elsevier plans to leverage its Mendeley technology to enhance SSRN’s repository and online community. Mandeley is a free reference manager and academic social network Elsevier acquired a couple of years ago. Here’s the press release. — Joe
Congratulations to Ravel Law for winning AALL’s New Product Award for its legal analytics service. Ravel FAQ here. — Joe
Legal software publishing companies and legal application developers that serve the public directly beware. A discussion paper from the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services is inviting comments on proposing a regulatory scheme that would impose restrictions on currently unregulated, non-traditional legal service providers. See Issues Paper Concerning Unregulated LSP Entities (March 31, 2016). Is the ABA protecting the “public interest” or attempting to expand its control over competitive threats to the organized bar’s hegemony? — Joe
In Moneyball for Book Publishers: A Detailed Look at How We Read, New York Times, March 14, 2016, Alexandra Alter and Karl Russell report that Jellybooks, a reader analytics company, is providing statistical analysis of ebook reading behavior to seven unidentified trade publishers.
Here is how it works: the company gives free e-books to a group of readers, often before publication. Rather than asking readers to write a review, it tells them to click on a link embedded in the e-book that will upload all the information that the device has recorded. The information shows Jellybooks when people read and for how long, how far they get in a book and how quickly they read, among other details. It resembles how Amazon and Apple, by looking at data stored in e-reading devices and apps, can see how often books are opened and how far into a book readers get.
Alter and Russell also report that “[f]or the most part, the publishers who are working with Jellybooks are not using the data to radically reshape books to make them more enticing, though they might do that eventually. But some are using the findings to shape their marketing plans.”
Click to enlarge above image to view an example of Jellybooks’ reader analytics. — Joe
RELX, parent company of Lexis Legal & Professional, reported its annual earnings yesterday. Lexis L & P’s revenues for 2015 were £1,443m, compared to £1,396m in 2014, yielding a modest 1% increase in revenue. Operating profit for 2015 was £274m up 7% from £260m in 2014 and yielding an operating profit margin of 18.9%, up 40 basis points from 2014.
Using today’s pound sterling to US dollars conversion rate, the combined revenue of TR Legal and Lexis L & P for 2015 was $5.45 billion, with TR Legal capturing 62% of the market, leaving 38% to Lexis. Of course, we do not have Bloomberg Law’s financials because it is a privately held company so market share cannot be more accurately determined. — Joe
From February 11th’s report of 2015 full-year and Q4 earnings results comes the news that TRI’s cash cow, Thomson Reuters Legal, reported an operating profit margin of 29.4% for 2015. That’s one percentage point higher than last year’s results. Propelling this increase is the high-margin legal solutions line of products and services. As US Print continues its death spiral and US Online Legal Information remains stagnant, Solutions grew revenues by 6%. There is reason to believe that the continued growth of Solutions likely will produce an operating profit margin of 30% by the end of 2016. Soon, too, Solutions will represent 50+% of TR Legal’s revenue. See graphics, below.
During the Great Recession, the Shed West era of collection development brought dramatic change to TRI’s balance sheet. From a high of 33%, TR Legal’s operating profit margin dropped to 26%. TR Legal shifted gears from being a publisher to being a legal solutions vendor that happened to have a large digital inventory of legal information. That is to say one of our three very expensive suppliers of legal information is coming out of the Great Recession no longer primarily focused on legal publishing. There will be consequences for the law library community. For one, I doubt many law libraries outside of the private sector participate in the solutions market. — Joe
In response to a takedown notice issued by Lawriter (dba Casemaker), Fastcase is seeking a declaratory judgement and injunctive relief in US District Court so that it can continue to publish the Georgia Administrative Rules and Regulations for the Company’s 800,000 member subscription base, including, interestingly enough, members of the Georgia state bar. In a nutshell, Fastcase is hoping for a ruling that states that no one can own and publish exclusively public law. Here is the complaint in what may be a landmark case for the Open Law movement. — Joe
Update: Bob Ambrogi reports that Lawriter will not fight Fastcase’s lawsuit.
Earlier this month Thomson Reuters announced that WestlawNext has been renamed Thomson Reuters Westlaw “in light of Westlaw Classic’s retirement.” Hat tip to LLB readers who called the name change announcement to my attention after reading this post. — Joe