Category Archives: Publishing Industry

The “Answer Company” wants my feedback because I’m a “valued customer”

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?

Judge

Staff Attorney

Legal Adviser

Clerk of Court

Court Administrator/Court Manager

Courtroom Clerk

IT Specialist

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

Want to search an out-of-date version of the National Survey of State Laws? There’s a very expensive online legal search service for that!

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 In addition to not stating online that the sixth edition has been superceded by the much more recent seventh edition (which Westlaw is going to publish online), the compiliers of the State Laws Survey have released two updates and four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.

Has West Search sacrificed comprehensiveness?

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 there a flaw in West Search?

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

Help! New HeinOnline Knowledge Base launched

Here. See also Bonnie Hein’s blog post. — Joe

LexBlog launches Fastcase integration

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

LexisNexis sued by consumer for shoddy editorial work

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

Elsevier acquires Social Science Research Network

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

AALL announces new product award

Congratulations to Ravel Law for winning AALL’s New Product Award for its legal analytics service. Ravel FAQ here. — Joe

Protecting the public from unregulated, non-traditional legal service providers

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

Reader analytics firm informs ebook publishers of reading behavior by specific titles

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.”

reader analytics graphic

Click to enlarge above image to view an example of Jellybooks’ reader analytics. — Joe

RELX reports 7% increase in Lexis Legal & Professional’s profits

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

Thomson Reuters Legal approaches the holy grail of 30% profit margin

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

tri 2015 legal results

tri 2015 pie

Fastcase sues Casemaker over copyright claim to Georgia State Rules & Regs: Updated

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.

RIP Westlaw Classic and WestlawNext

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

Good old fashioned WEXIS competition

Just in case you haven’t noticed, the tab and sidebar war has returned for our very expensive legal search vendors. Without the branding could you tell which is WestlawNext and which is Lexis Advance? Ok, the key number symbol gives it away.

BTW when did Thomson Reuters drop “next?” — Joe

westlaw

lexis advance

Commercializing AI: TR’s Watson Initiative to launch global financial regulation product by year’s end

Among several other product announcements, Thomson Reuters Legal recently disclosed that it will release in beta the first legal product using Watson’s cognitive computing technologies by year’s end. On Dewey B Strategic, Jean O’Grady writes

Ever since TR announced their collaboration with IBM Watson last October, the legal community has been impatient to learn how this alliance will manifest in a legal product. We still don’t know but TR did promise that they will be the first company for built a legal product using Watson technology. The alliance will combine IBM’s cognitive computing with TR’s deep domain expertise. A panel of executives from TR and Watson revealed that there will be a beta product available by the end of 2016. Their first collaboration will focus on taming the complexities of global financial regulation.

Bob Ambrogi adds “The product will help users untangle the sometimes-confusing web of global legal and regulatory requirements and will be targeted at customers in corporate legal, corporate compliance and law firms. Initially, it will focus on financial services, [Erik Laughlin, managing director, Legal Managed Services and Corporate Segment, and head of the Watson Initiative] suggested, but will also address other domains important to corporations.”

Very interesting. Wouldn’t it be something if TR was prepared to demonstrate how this product will work at AALL ALI AALL in Chicago this year? — Joe

Beyond the pocket parts of Wright & Miller: Author supplements to pocket parts self-published because of publisher’s editorial decision to be more selective

Prompted by Thomson Reuters Legal’s decision to make Wright & Miller’s Federal Practice and Procedure more selective in describing and analyzing new case developments, Professor Joan Steinman, a co-author of the treatise, has been publishing digital compilations of case descriptions and citations to law review articles that complements the contents of the pocket parts to volumes 14B and C of the Wright & Miller treatise. “The cases described here either are not included at all in the 2015 volume 14B and C Pocket Parts or are cited there for different propositions than are reflected in this electronic publication.” Quoting from the abstract for Removal and Remand — Beyond the Supplements [SSRN, posted July 7, 2015]. See also Removal and Remand — Beyond the Supplements [SSRN, posted March 4, 2014].

This is the first time I’ve noticed something like this happening. Treatise authors confronted by similar WEXIS editorial decisions may want to follow Professor Steinman’s example. Unfortunately, the pocket parts at issue make no mention of Professor Steinman’s digital supplement. A statement could have been placed at the end of the following quotation from the pocket parts’ Preface:

As always, it is essential that the judge or lawyer using the Treatise check the supplementary material in connection with the question in which he or she is interested in order to be fully informed of the current state of the law.

— Joe

University of California System Goes Open-Access on Faculty Scholarship

The University of California System issued a directive near the end of October that require faculty to place their scholarly works in open access sources:

Each Faculty member grants to the University of California a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, for the purpose of making their articles widely and freely available in an open access repository. Any other systematic uses of the licensed articles by the University of California must be approved by the Academic Senate. This policy does not transfer copyright ownership, which remains with Faculty authors under existing University of California policy.

* * *

To assist the University in disseminating and archiving the articles, Faculty commit to helping the University obtain copies of the articles. Specifically, each Faculty member who does not permanently waive the license above will provide an electronic copy of his or her final version of the article to the University of California by the date of its publication, for inclusion in an open access repository. When appropriate, a Faculty member may instead notify the University of California if the article will be freely available in another repository or as an open-access publication. Faculty members who have permanently waived the license may nonetheless deposit a copy with the University of California or elsewhere for archival purposes.

Notwithstanding the above, this policy does not in any way prescribe or limit the venue of publication. This policy neither requires nor prohibits the payment of fees or publication costs by authors.

That last line is interesting.  There are two articles at the Chronicle of Higher Education worth reading that relate to the issue of fees.  One is What Open-Access Publishing Actually Costs by Ellen Wexler, and the other is What a Mass Exodus at a Linguistics Journal Means for Scholarly Publishing, also by Wexler.  Both are pretty good examinations of issues surrounding the hidden costs of open-access publishing.  The first article (later in date) points out that placement of scholarly articles even for open access can require a publication fee.  Comments there point out that someone is paying for the time to peer review (usually the university or college employing the reviewer through salary), or providing the server space, or other elements that go between the publication and its editorial and distribution network.

The other article tells of the mass resignation of the editorial staff for the journal Linqua, published by Elsevier.  The staff had asked that the journal become open-access and given to them to pursue that goal.  Elsevier unsurprisingly said no.  The company has said that it continue publishing the title under a new team.  The article states that authors currently must pay some $1,800 per article to make it free to readers among other costs.

This isn’t necessarily the model for law reviews.  They are edited by students and usually not peer-reviewed.  The trend is to make content available for free via the law journal’s web site.  Even still, the University or Law School has underlying costs to make this happen by paying for the underlying technical equipment and/or subsidizing the loss of subscriptions.  The takeaway from Wexler’s articles is that free really isn’t really free.  Costs shift to someone else.  Whether that model is sustainable remains to be seen.

Mark

Solutions businesses drive Thomson Reuters Legal’s growth

Last Friday, Thomson Reuters released its third quarter financial results. For TR Legal

  • Revenues increased 1%. Excluding US print, revenues grew 3%.
  • Solutions businesses (46% of the segment’s revenues) grew 4%, slightly lower than the first half of the year due to timing factors. Revenue growth was driven by Elite, Serengeti, Pangea3 legal managed services, and the Investigations and Public Records business. Solutions businesses represent all of Legal’s revenues excluding US print and US online legal information.
  • US online legal information (40% of the segment’s revenues) grew 2%, reflecting growth for the third consecutive quarter.
  • US print (14% of the segment’s revenues) declined 8%, as expected.
  • EBITDA was unchanged and the margin increased 90 basis points to 38.8% compared to 37.9% in the prior-year period. Excluding the benefit of currency, the margin increased 30 basis points.
  • Operating profit increased 4% and the margin increased 200 basis points to 31.7% compared to 29.7% in the prior-year period. Excluding the benefit of currency, the margin increased 130 basis points due to lower depreciation and amortization expense.

triq3dia

As one can see from the above, US Print and US Online Legal only represents 54% of the revenue generated by TR Legal during Q3. Solutions is the revenue growth driver and likely will surpass 50% of TR Legal’s total revenue in a couple of years as US Print continues its death spiral.

triq3

Do note TR Legal’s profit margin for the nine months ended Sept. 30th. At 29.3%, it is substantially higher than all of TR’s other divisions: Financial & Risk (17%), Tax & Accounting (21%), and Intellectual Property & Science (20.4%).

— Joe