Category Archives: Publishing Industry

AALL’s 2018 New Product Award goes to BLaw’s Points of Law

According to today’s AALL eBriefing, Bloomberg Law’s Point of Law artificial intelligence solution has been awarded AALL’s 2018 New Product Award. For a review of the product, see Mark Giangrande’s LLB post.  — Joe

“The Board will be gathering more facts in order to determine how to effectively respond” to LexisNexis’ tying ultimatum

We have been reporting on recent LexisNexis tie-in attempts wherein the Company refuses to sell print or ancillary products in retaliation for cancelling Lexis Advance as if this may be a new company sales policy. Initially I thought a rogue LN sales rep may have created the reported situation involving a large law firm in Texas. Having now heard confidentially about similar tie-in negotiations, I and I have no doubt other invoice-paying law librarians are interested in finding out what is going on and what we are going to do about this to support member institutions. So is our association’s Executive Board.

At last week’s meeting, the Executive Board heard a request from CRIV to issue “a statement of disapproval of the LexisNexis policy.” Instead of issuing the statement, the Executive Board has decided to gather “more facts in order to determine how to effectively respond” according to AALL Member News for the Week of April 9, 2018. No word on who is performing the investigation, when it will commence and conclude, whether the results will be reported to the membership in a timely manner, and what AALL will do with the results of its investigation.

OK, our association isn’t exactly known for its consumer advocacy efforts on behalf of all institutional members but I hope AALL’s statement means that it will solicit additional information, this time from all law librarians who have been confronted with LN’s tie-in ultimatum. If your law library has been the recipient of LN’s ultimatum, I think the best people to inform right now are the members of CRIV. The more instances of similar negotiations, the better.

Let’s not let LexisNexis get away with giving the Executive Board the same sort of “answers” the Company gave CRIV when CRIV asked LN three times for an explanation. Here they are:

First attempted explanation — “Our pricing is different in each market and varies depending on which products and solutions work best for each customer. Accordingly, we sit down with customers and explain the pricing for their firm, including what products are sold together and which are sold separately. If any of your readers want to discuss, we are happy to do so directly with them.”

Second attempted explanation — “Keep in mind that Lexis has been selling integrated products as a package with Online for many years with notable examples such as Lexis Search Advantage, Lexis for Microsoft Office, Verdict and Settlement Analyzer, Profile Suite, LN Publisher, and Digital Library. As we retire Lexis.com this year, and upgrade users to Lexis Advance, we will more fully leverage our
platform that consolidates all content and tools to one ecosystem. This affords considerable benefits to users including being able to navigate seamlessly between products, have answer sets surfaced across products, and gain access into the central Online content repository, that formerly would have been restricted by product.”

Third attempted explanation — “It is impossible for us to answer this specific question with a blanket statement since all markets have unique pricing plans suited to buying preferences. What does apply at a broad level is that we are continuing to integrate products into Lexis Advance where all global content and tools will be housed and maintained to the highest level of accuracy and currentness. We are
exploring pricing and packaging options that offer a seamless experience across products and access to related answer sets not possible with satellite products. Please refer to related information provided in the LexisNexis/CRIV conference posted on CRIV Blog, Dec. 20, Again, If any readers wish to discuss, we encourage them to contact their account team directly.”

I call BS.

Hopefully, our association will aggressively pursue what may be the most serious complaint about LexisNexis in at least a decade. — Joe

At 1:00 PM CDT Friday, AALL may decide to issue a “statement of disapproval” over one very expensive legal information provider’s tie-in negotiating tactics

Yesterday I reported that CRIV has been unsuccessful in attempting to resolve a dispute involving LexisNexis and a large law firm in Texas over LexisNexis’ refusal to sell its print products unless the firm renewed its Lexis Advance license. (Since then I have heard about how LexisNexis has coerced other law libraries using the same negotiations tactic.). At 1:00 PM CDT Friday, the Executive Board will consider CRIV’s recommendation that AALL issue “a statement of disapproval of the LexisNexis policy.” If issued, what should the statement say?

How about a strongly worded condemnation of what may be anti-competitive tying because (1) two separate products or services are involved, (2) the sale or agreement to sell one is conditioned on the purchase of the other, (3) the seller has sufficient economic power in the market for the tying product to enable it to restrain trade in the market for the tied product, and (4) a not insubstantial amount of interstate commerce in the tied product is affected. Enumerating the elements of a per se violation of antitrust law might be a good start for advocating for our institutional membership base. — Joe

What! Is LexisNexis discriminating against law libraries that cancel Lexis Advance?

The following complaint was reported by CRIV to the Executive Board for the Board’s Spring 2018 meeting.

In July of 2017, an AALL member (a librarian at a large law firm in Texas) submitted a help request to CRIV regarding a change in LexisNexis sales policy that she felt was detrimental to her firm, and requested that CRIV mediate the situation with LexisNexis. Specifically, the librarian’s complaint alleged that when her firm decided not to renew its subscription to the Lexis Advance database, LexisNexis retaliated by stating that they would no longer be willing to sell any LexisNexis print materials or ancillary online legal products (such as Law360) to the firm.

In the Spring Meeting Board Book 2018 (Tab 14, PDF pages 186-188), CRIV reports to the Executive Board that our representatives were given unsatisfactory answers when they questioned LexisNexis about this complaint. Still waiting for an explanation… . — Joe

Susan Nevelow Mart’s Results may vary in legal research databases published in ABA Journal

“Call me naive,” wrote Bob Ambrogi about the conclusions reached by Susan Nevelow Mart in her excellent research found in The Algorithm as a Human Artifact: Implications for Legal {Re}Search, “but I would have thought that entering the identical search query on, say, both Westlaw and Lexis Advance would return fairly similar results.” I was somewhat shocked that Bob hadn’t realized what law librarians have known for 40 years, an insight made even more important since WEXIS implemented “black box” searching because it won’t release proprietary information about the construction of their search algorithms.

Perhaps the editors of the ABA Journal thought their readers might also be naive because the Journal published a summary of Nevelow Mart’s research results in the March issue. See Results may vary in legal research databases by Susan Nevelow Mart. Here’s a snip:

At first glance, the various legal research databases seem similar. For instance, they all promote their natural language searching, so when the keywords go into the search box, researchers expect relevant results. The lawyer would also expect the results to be somewhat similar no matter which legal database a lawyer uses. After all, the algorithms are all trying to solve the same problem: translating a specific query into relevant results.

The reality is much different. In a comparison of six legal databases—Casetext, Fastcase, Google Scholar, Lexis Advance, Ravel and Westlaw—when researchers entered the identical search in the same jurisdictional database of reported cases, there was hardly any overlap in the top 10 cases returned in the results. Only 7 percent of the cases were in all six databases, and 40 percent of the cases each database returned in the results set were unique to that database. It turns out that when you give six groups of humans the same problem to solve, the results are a testament to the variability of human problem-solving. If your starting point for research is a keyword search, the divergent results in each of these six databases will frame the rest of your research in a very different way.

Highly recommended. This ABAJ article should be assigned reading for law school students — all law school students, not just 1Ls taking their LRW courses. — Joe

Information wants to be expensive, not free

From Dieter Zinnbauer’s Information Wants to Be Expensive, Not Free! And this is Bad for Justice, Democracy, the Economy (Mar. 1, 2018):

This essay is rather speculative. I argue that there is a very much overlooked characteristic of information goods, particularly digital information goods – that leads to a substantive, yet rarely discussed market failure with far-reaching consequences for important classes of information related to our education and research system, the judiciary, markets and democracy at large.

This overlooked feature is the positionality of many information goods. Positionality means that the utility of a specific information item for user x depends on the level of consumption of the same item by other users. Specific types of information are more valuable (or at times only valuable), when they are very exclusively available only to a small band of users. Or more intuitively, the fewer other people have a specific piece of information at a given point in time, the more valuable it may be to me.

Surprisingly, this simple characteristic is rarely discussed in the information literature or perhaps seems just too obvious to merit deeper analysis. Yet, as I will try to show, the positionality of information has far-reaching implications for the functioning of information markets and for the actual incentive systems of different players that all too often seem to be mis-construed as overly pro-social. And putting a focus on positionality also highlights the relevance and urgency for revisiting related regulatory policies, in order to ponder possible corrective interventions to tackle the ensuing informational imbalances and exclusive practices that positionality-oriented pricing structures for such information will generate.

Recommended. — Joe

The Legal Toolkit podcast: Legal print isn’t dying, just changing

“Is using paper out of style? There are a lot of advantages to making things digital but that doesn’t have to make paper obsolete. In this episode of the Legal Toolkit, host Jared Correia talks to Ed Walters [CEO of Fastcase] about the role of print mediums in law. They reexamine when to use paper versus digital mediums; both printed paper and digital copies have their own quality and characteristics that are useful in different cases. Ed also nerds out about font and classic printing methods, which is useful if you want to make your printed documents beautiful.” Transcript and audio broadcast. — Joe

RELX reports 2017 financial results for LexisNexis

With an adjusted operating margin of 19.2% and an underlying growth rate of 11%, RELX Group’s LexisNexis expects strong profit growth based on stable revenue for 2018. 83% of reported revenue comes from electronic and face-to-face. Print revenue continues to decline.

Source: RELX Group’s LexisNexis

Underlying revenue growth for Legal in 2017 was in line with the prior year, with continued efficiency gains driving strong underlying operating profit growth.

Underlying revenue growth was +2%. The difference between the reported and underlying growth rates reflects the impact of exchange rate movements and portfolio changes including the acquisition of Ravel Law, the disposal of several print and services assets, and the final exit from the Martindale Hubbell joint venture.

Underlying adjusted operating profit growth was +11%. The increase in operating profit margin reflects ongoing organic process improvement and decommissioning of systems which, together with currency movements, more than offset a lower profit contribution from joint ventures and other portfolio effects.

Electronic revenues saw continued growth, partially offset by print declines. The roll-out of new platform releases across our US and international markets continued, with broader datasets and the continued expansion of early stage legal analytics. The usage migration of US legal customers onto Lexis Advance is now substantially complete.

US and European markets remained stable. Other international markets continued to grow well.

2018 outlook: Trends in our major customer markets are unchanged, continuing to limit the scope for underlying revenue growth. We expect underlying profit growth to remain strong.

H/T to Gary Price’s InfoDocket. — Joe

Thomson Reuters’ US Print revenue continues to decline: TRI Q4 and full-year financial results

From the Feb. 8, 2018 press release for Thomson Reuters’ Q4 and full-year financials:

Q4 results for Legal:

Revenues increased 1% to $881 million.
•Recurring revenues grew 3% (75% of total)
•US Print revenues declined 7% (14% of total)
•Transactions revenues declined 1% (11% of total)

Adjusted EBITDA increased 6% to $314 million and the margin increased to 35.6% from 34.3% due to the impact of the severance charges incurred in the fourth quarter of 2016.
•In constant currency and excluding the severance charges from the prior-year period, adjusted EBITDA declined 3% and the margin decreased by 150 basis points.

Full-year results for Legal:

Revenues increased 1% to $3.4 billion.
•Recurring revenues grew 3% (76% of total)
•US Print revenues declined 6% (13% of total)
•Transactions revenues declined 6% (11% of total)

Adjusted EBITDA increased 4% to $1.3 billion and the margin increased to 37.7% from 36.6%. The increase was driven by the impact of severance charges incurred in the fourth quarter of 2016, higher revenues and savings from ongoing simplification initiatives.
•In constant currency and excluding the severance charges from the prior year, adjusted EBITDA was up 2% and the margin increased 30 basis points.

Another small legal publisher bites the dust

O’Connors, a small state and federal legal deskbook publisher, has been acquired by Thomson Reuters. According to the Legal Currents announcement, “any changes should be invisible to customers.” Like that happens when Thomson Reuters takes over a publisher. — Joe

Bob Ambrogi joins LexBlog

Bob Ambrogi is joining LexBlog as publisher and editor-in-chief of a new arm of the company, one that “will make legal news, information and analysis more easily and intuitively accessible to legal professionals and the public and that will shine a light on the many bloggers who are writing all this.” More at Bob’s LawSites post. Congrats and good luck. — Joe

Library of Congress makes historical versions of USC available online after buying them from Hein

More than 60 years of U.S. laws are now published online and accessible for free for the first time after being acquired through a purchase agreement with William S. Hein & Co, Inc. The Library has made available the main editions and supplements of the United States Code from 1925 through the 1988 edition here.

H/T to beSpacific. — Joe

LexisNexis’s Role in ICE Surveillance and Librarian Ethics

by Sarah Lamdan and Yasmin Sokkar Harker

A recent Intercept article listed the data corporations vying to build ICE’s Extreme Vetting surveillance system. The list of companies signing on to this project includes LexisNexis, a go-to product for legal and business research, news, and public-records searching. LexisNexis is a ubiquitous library resource. It can be found on public use computers and webpages in public, academic, and private libraries across the nation. For librarians in the legal field, especially, LexisNexis is an often unavoidable product, as it is one of two major research systems for the law.

Civil liberties activists and artificial intelligence (AI) experts quickly responded to the news by writing a letter, en masse, to IBM’s CEO, condemning the company’s potential participation in the ICE program. The AI experts decried the program as being “tailor-made for discrimination”, as it is meant to determine and evaluate an applicant’s probability of becoming a positively contributing member of society, as well as their ability to contribute to national interests and predict whether an applicant intends to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States. These types of programs have not been proven to be effective, and in other cases, have falsely labelled individuals as criminals or security risks. This program is not totally dissimilar to IBM’s role in the Holocaust as the statisticians and data-gatherers behind massive deportation and roundup lists. Librarians should be active participants in the conversation about the ICE project to build a system for surveillance and deportation.

Librarians are advocates and activists for privacy rights and the protection of personally identifiable information in surveillance, standing up against recent-anti-muslim Executive Orders and making it clear that libraries and information are for everyone. Librarians know that privacy and the ability to do research without fear of surveillance are the cornerstones of intellectual freedom. We have historically been active in the fight for civil liberties, even going to jail to protect our patrons from intrusive government surveillance.

Librarians are also invested in the ethical use of information. The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy emphasizes the role of “using information, data, and scholarship ethically” and the AALL Legal Research Competencies and Standards states that a successful legal researcher “distinguishes between ethical and unethical uses of information”. The Boulder Statement on Legal Research Education specifies that legal research instruction should include “an ongoing examination of professional standards, including the identification of ethical responsibilities.” Given this focus on ethics, librarians should explore and publicize the ethical implications of a system that would use personal data in a way that technology experts believe will falsely identify people as posing a criminal risk and expose those individuals to serious repercussions.

Critical information literacy, or understanding the source of information and the roles information providers have in society at large, is also a cornerstone of the library profession. As librarians, we must investigate the source of LexisNexis data. While many librarians are pleased by LexisNexis push-of-a-button dossiers on potential clients and library users are tickled that they can use LexisNexis products to track down ex-beaus and high school classmates, we cannot ignore the rotten roots from which this personal data springs. As of 2006, LexisNexis had the world’s largest electronic database for public-records related information. Along with Accurint, a huge public records database, LexisNexis purchased Seisint, a post-9/11 creation whose MATRIX system combines commercial and government records to enable the quick creation of “suspects” or surveillance targets. Seisint, and its MATRIX system, were condemned by civil liberties activists as a tool to propel the nation towards a “surveillance society.” It is incumbent upon librarians to understand and build awareness about the products we provide to the public. Especially if our patrons are likely to be harmed by ICE surveillance, we cannot, in good conscience, counsel them to use products under the LexisNexis umbrella to conduct research in our libraries.

As library organizations discuss ways library professionals can advocate for intellectual freedom, democracy, and equality, we should begin by grappling with how to react when our major database providers engage in massive surveillance projects with the government. It is an opportunity for us, as professionals to put our ethical standards and critical information literacy practices to practical use. As the gatekeepers for the databases and platforms that we use for research, librarians have an obligation to honor privacy and civil liberties in their libraries, and to stand up to research product companies helping ICE to build supersystems for “extremely vetting” citizens and noncitizens alike.

Editor’s Note: The above post was originally published on RIPS Law Librarian Blog, a publication of the Research, Instruction, and Patron Services Special Interest Section (RIPS-SIS) of the American Association of Law Libraries, on December 5, 2017. It was removed from the blog on the “advice of AALL General Counsel” as stated here. The authors asked to publish their post on LLB and I am happy to provide a means for this very important contribution to see the light of day. — Joe

 

GPO and the GOP’s tax plan: What if tax bill’s automatic spending cuts are triggered?

On Free Government Information, James Jacobs observes that the automatic spending cuts in the GOP’s tax plan could decimate the GPO because its revolving fund for FY18 could be cut $2 millions in 2018 with additional cuts for 10 years. “$2 million doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but GPO only requested $8,540,000 for the revolving fund for FY18. That’s a 25% cut! The revolving fund pays for improvements to GPO’s FDsys (and its successor system, govinfo) as well as other essential IT projects and things like enhancing the cybersecurity of GPO’s IT systems and other necessary physical infrastructure projects.” “With passage of this ‘tax cut’ bill, Jacobs wrote “GPO’s demise is no longer hypothetical. What will FDLP libraries do in that case? Does GPO have a formal succession plan or escrow arrangements (key components of a Trusted Digital Repository audit!)? And what will FDLP libraries do to maintain critical access to and preservation of government information going forward?” — Joe

CRS report: Government Printing, Publications, and Digital Information Management: Issues and Challenges

From the summary of Government Printing, Publications, and Digital Information Management: Issues and Challenges (Nov. 8, 2017 R45014):

In light of the governance and technological changes of the past four decades, a relevant question for Congress might arise: To what extent can decades-old authorities and work patterns meet the challenges of digital government information? For example, the widespread availability of government information in digital form has led some to question whether paper versions of some publications might be eliminated in favor of digital versions, but others note that paper versions are still required for a variety of reasons. Another area of concern focuses on questions about the capacity of current information dissemination authorities to enable the provision of digital government information in an effective and efficient manner. With regard to information retention, the emergence of a predominantly digital FDLP may raise questions about the capacity of GPO to manage the program given its existing statutory authorities.

These questions are further complicated by the lack of a stable, robust set of digital information resources and management practices like those that were in place when Congress last considered current government information policies. The 1895 printing act was arguably an expression of the state of the art standard of printing technology and provided a foundation which supported government information distribution for more than a century. By contrast, in the fourth or fifth decade of transitioning from the tangible written word to ubiquitous digital creation and distribution, the way ahead is not as clear, due in part to a lack of widely understood and accepted standards for managing digital information.

This report examines three areas related to the production, distribution, retention and management of government information in a primarily digital environment. These areas include
 the Joint Committee on Printing;
 the Federal Depository Library Program; and
 government information management in the future.

— Joe

In another move to compete with WEXIS, Fastcase launches imprint for secondary works

When Fastcase hired industry veteran Steve Errick this summer, observers knew things were going change. And they have. Fastcase has launched Full Court Press to publish law journals, legal treatises, deskbooks, forms, checklists and workflow tools. First up, RAIL: The Journal of Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & Law. For details, see Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites post. — Joe

Natural language processing and machine learning tools in HeinOnline

Check out Shannon Sabo’s two part series on HeinOnline’s implementation of natural language processing and AI: Part One and Part Two. — Joe

Fastcase adds blog commentary to Fastcase 7

In a major coup for both the LexBlog network and Fastcase, Fastcase has integrated the LexBlog network’s bloggers commentaries into Fastcase 7. Now, a Fastcase searcher can access contemporary analysis on legal developments in addition to linkage to HeinOnline’s library of legal periodicals. “We’re pushing hard to add the best secondary sources for our members,” said Fastcase CEO Ed Walters. “The LexBlog network is a platform for some of the nation’s leading experts in law to report and synthesize legal news and developments. And the collection of every day’s LexBlog posts reads like the most compelling legal newspaper in America.” Quoting from Bob Ambrogi’s LawSite’s post. — Joe

What sort of information transparency is necessary for reliance on analytical tools?

According to RNRMarketResearch.com, the legal analytics market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 32.7% and is projected to grow from $451.1 million in 2017 to $1.858 billion by 2022. But not all legal analytical products are created equally. On the AALL CS-SIS blog, Jonathan Germann demonstrates this by comparing Docket Navigator with Bloomberg Law. The latter comes up lacking. “As information professionals become regular users and gatekeepers of analytics tools, what information transparency is necessary for reliance?,” asks Germann. He proceeds to provide a transparency checklist. — Joe

Going solo as in licensing Lexis only or Westlaw only

Over 50% of large law firms license only Lexis or only Westlaw according to Feit Consulting. Some 22% of BigLaw firms with 750+ attorneys have gone solo provider. Michael Feit looks at the duopoly of our very expensive search vendors and the best route for individual firms in One of the largest law firms goes sole provider, does this finally foretell the Wexis monopoly demise in the largest segment?

Feit Consulting has been monitoring the sole provider trend for over a decade. As corporate clients pushed back on research costs, firms were not able to recover costs entirely. The affect on the bottom line pushed some firms to make the decision to go sole provider. The freedom of funds allows firms and organizations to purchase wish-list software and technology to enhance the delivery of legal information. While this has worked for some, the big question is whether it is the right decision for your firm or organization.

H/T to PinHawk’s Legal Administrator Daily — Joe