Bloomberg Law is moving up

according to the Heard on the Street column in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Data Don’t Add Up for Thomson Reuters.”  From the story:

 a survey of legal-information customers by Claudio Aspesi of Sanford C. Bernstein in January found that 61% of respondents had a subscription to Bloomberg Law, up from 36% the year before. And some respondents said Bloomberg Law was getting closer to offering a breadth of data needed to completely replace a subscription to Westlaw or rival Reed Elsevier’s Lexis-Nexis.

LexisNexis and Westlaw charges – who’s paying?

A story in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Law Firms Face Fresh Backlash Over Fees, caught my eye with this paragraph:

Johnson & Johnson has its own strategy for curbing charges for legal-research services. The health-care-products company maintains its own subscriptions to legal databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. It asks law firms to use its accounts when doing work for the company. A J&J spokesman says the practice is one of several used to reduce costs for outside legal work.

Is this a common practice?  Comments welcome.

Bloomberg, BNA and the Brain

Bloomberg reminds me of the character The Brain from the Animaniacs cartoon Pinky and the Brain:

Pinky: “Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?”
The Brain: “The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!”

This is evidenced in the November 28, 2011 issue of Newsweek with its Business Media article “Bloomberg’s Plan for World Domination,” by Nick Summers.

“With a one-two punch of news and data, Bloomberg L.P. has built a global empire over the last 30 years.”  Click on the link above to see a chart of how it breaks down.

The article discussed Bloomberg’s $ 990 million acquisition of BNA and writes that “. . . every lawyer,lobbyist, and lawmaker in the capital depends on BNA’s proprietary data to do his or her job . . . “

Court TV and American Lawyer founder Steven Brill, who once “lusted after BNA,” is quoted as saying, “. . . [BNA] is very high-margin, high-priced, and specialized . . . “

From the Newsweek article:  “Now Bloomberg can feed BNA’s sought-after data directly to BLaw . . . The result: a one-stop shop.”

In my opinion, this one-stop shopping synthesis of information from a rich and wide variety of sources – high-quality secondary sources, all primary authority, dockets, pleadings, crowd-sourced commentary, and more can only enrich the research experience. 


2011 Law Firm Legal Research Requirements for New Attorneys

2011 Law Firm Legal Research Requirements for New Attorneys

Patrick Meyer

Thomas Jefferson School of Law
September 26, 2011
This article summarizes results from the author’s 2010 law firm legal research survey, which determined what research functions, and in what formats, law firms require new hires to be proficient. This survey updates the author’s 2009 article that is available at this site and which was based on this author’s earlier law firm legal research survey.

These new survey results confirm that law firms need schools to integrate the teaching of online and print-based research resources and to emphasize cost-effective research. The following federal and state specific print-based resources should be taught in an integrated manner: legislative codes, secondary source materials, reporters, administrative codes and digests.


Source:  LSN Law & Society: The Legal Profession eJournal Vol. 6 No. 74, 11/16/2011

The Future of Legal Search

Here’s a White Paper from Cognizant 20-20 Insights (September 2011) that should be of interest to many readers of this blog:

The Future of Legal Search:

Meeting Lawyer Requirements by Delivering More Contextually-Sensitive and Relevant Results

by Ambika Sagar

Some highlights:

Social media, crowdsourced data and other sources of information continue to generate volume and increase complexity.

Leveraging search history, information search providers can start analyzing how lawyers actually search to build artificial intelligence tools for constructing queries based on cases on which a lawyer is currently working.

Deriving context involves analyzing the pleadings to understand the legal issue.

Proactive search is an ideal opportunity to highlight the value of paid content.  By providing relevant free content and abstracts of paid content, the legal information industry can target upgrading of customers.

Better value propositions such as pay-per-result and assistance in discovery of relevant results can improve conversion rates.

Ideally, a single-sign-in, cloud-based solution that provides access to various tools and ensures maximum integration of research and case data with litigation tools will benefit lawyers the most and also help to attract users and keep them loyal to one platform.

Be sure to check out the article itself and its many useful illustrations.

Thomson Reuters in the news

From a Wall Street Journal report:

Thomson Reuters Profit Jumps 93%

. . . WestlawNext, which has been sold to over 24,000 customers since its launch in early 2010 and is helping to offset downward pressure stemming from continuing weakness in business from large law firms. Legal revenue increased 9% to $843 million for ongoing businesses and before currency adjustments.

And this from a story in yesterday’s Financial Times, “Thomsons grow restless over Reuter’s progress,” (p. 17, by David Gelles and Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson).

. . . the company’s focus is largely on its Eikon platform, which was designed as a rival to the Bloomberg terminal.  Outside observers acknowledge that Eikon was well conceived. “Eikon is a fantastic idea and if they have time it will go far, ” said [Douglas B. Taylor, managing partner at Burton-Taylor International Consulting].  “It won’t be a Bloomberg killer, but it will reset the bar for Thomson Reuters.”

Easy Does It: Examining First-Year Law Student Impressions of the Online Resources They Use Most Often

“Easy Does It: Examining First-Year Law Student Impressions of the Online
Resources They Use Most Often” 

LISA D. KINZER, University of Texas at Austin – School of Law

You’ve got what you get and you don’t throw a fit.

It’s a mantra heard in households across the country when kids sit down at the
kitchen table and realize they do not have what they wanted for dinner. A few
weeks ago, I had a “you’ve got what you get” moment as I was looking over data I
had collected from first-year J.D. students at the University of Texas School of

The data, as it turned out, were not what I wanted. I had asked
students to name the online resource they use most often, and then to answer a
series of brief questions about that resource. I had intended to (1) measure
student use of WestlawNext, and (2) get a sense of what students think of
WestlawNext. But in retrospect I realized I had not accomplished my second goal,
because I had failed to collect any information about WestlawNext from students
who do not use it. It is not particularly useful to hear about a resource from
its fans, without also hearing from individuals who are perhaps not as enamored
with that resource. So I could not use the data to write anything very
interesting about WestlawNext.

However, some of the data patterns that
emerged were so striking that I wanted to share them. I found that, regardless
of whether a student is using Lexis, Westlaw, or WestlawNext, students are
overwhelmingly convinced that their resource is the easiest and the fastest to
use. I also found that students are not nearly as convinced that their resource
returns relevant material or everything they need. In addition, it seems that
students simply do not care near as much about vendor rewards programs as
vendors might have us believe. And finally, to the extent that their legal
research professors have any preference as to what resource students should use,
students are either unaware of that preference or simply unaffected by

In this paper, I review the data that create these patterns, and then
try to sort out what these patterns mean, practically speaking. I will begin
with an overview of my methodology, then review the results of the survey, and
then turn to the implications and possibilities for further research.


Source: LSN Legal Education eJournal Vol. 8 No. 41, 07/20/2011

“Please remember that your function is to correct my errors, not to introduce errors of your own”

I just picked up the Winter 2010 issue of the University of Louisville Law Review.  The article by Melvin I. Urofsky, “Louis D. Brandeis and His Clerks,” was great fun to read.  Take a look at the article when you have a moment, but I want to share some of the best tidbits here.  As you might guess, many have a research connection.

When discussing the thorough work expected of the clerks, Urofsky writes:

“This research took place before the computer age; a legal researcher can now use Lexis-Nexis or Westlaw and instantly have all of the citations on the screen, or Google to get non-legal facts.  His clerks had to to do it the old fashioned way–going to the law library and using the decennial digests for state and federal case citations and other tools for statutes.  They called government offices to get  reports or copies of hearings, kept track of articles appearing in law reviews, and when they spotted a title that might be relevant immediately sent for a copy.  Some used typewriters and others wrote by hand, but their research memoranda often ran for dozens of pages.”

Brandeis expected work to be meticulous.

“When Brandeis came in, he put two volumes of state reports on the desk.  ”Did you read all of the cases cited in the footnotes?” he asked.  Acheson [his clerk] said that he had.  ”Suppose you read these two again.”  The cases had no bearing on the argument and had slipped in from digests that Acheson had used to organize the notes.  He went on to apologize and Brandeis dismissed the matter with one sentence: “Please remember that your function is to correct my errors, not to introduce errors of your own.”

There would be as many as 20 drafts going back and forth between Brandeis and his clerk — each adding new citations and making corrections.  Notably, Urofsky mentions,  Brandeis was the first Supreme Court Justice to cite to a law review.   [The journal was the American Labor Legislation Review and the case was Adams v. Tanner, 244 US 590 (1917).]

I will close with a very amusing  passage that centers on his former clerk, James Landis, and his new appointment as the youngest dean in Harvard Law School’s history:

“You mean the Harvard Law School? [Brandeis] asked.

“Yes,” Landis replied.

“Why do you want to take that?”

“Well,” [Landis] stumbled for an answer, “it’s a great position.”

“Anybody can be a good Dean of the Harvard Law School,” Brandeis advised.  ”Why not take some smaller school and do something with it?”

How widespread is WestlawNext?

A student asked me this question.  Since I live and work in the beautiful bubble known as Stanford University,and have no idea how things work in the Real World, I turned to outside help to answer the student’s question.

I first asked our Westlaw representative, who provided this interesting and useful piece of information:

Based on a recent article about Thomson Reuters revenue, “The WestlawNext legal database has been sold to more than 18,500 customers since its launch in February 2010, representing 34 percent of Westlaw’s revenue base.”


But I knew that our students would want to know more specific information, so I sent out a quick request on the Northern California Association of Law Libraries (NOCALL) listserv.  I received 21 replies — 6 from Biglaw law firms, 8 from small/midsize firms, 2 from county law libraries, 4 from the courts (U.S. District, United States Court of Appeals and California Appellate), and 1 from a state agency.  Of the 6 Biglaw law firms, 4 have WestlawNext (although one, at present, is only making it available to firm librarians — see comments below) and 2 do not.

Of the 8 small/midsize firms, 5 have WestlawNext and 3 do not.

None of the public sector law libraries have WestlawNext.  The state agency reports that it might be added this summer.  I did find it a little ironic that the court libraries do not have WestlawNext — didn’t West get started by wooing the judiciary and treating judges extra special nice?

The comments I received were also very useful and I read many of them to my students, since they contain some great research tips and insights.

Here are a few of the comments:

I know that when firm librarians first saw the marketing materials, we were worried that the quality of search results would go down due to the one-box searching, but if anything the opposite has happened.  The result ranking is much better than it was previously, and you can see a lot more information before clicking into a document, which is great.

Our firm has a flat rate contract, so even though there is a cost for the original search ($50), the amount billed back to the client is significantly lower.  They shouldn’t be scared to use the resource due to the cost (at our firm anyway).  It’s in line with Lexis and the old version of Westlaw.  But of course, books are still cheaper.
Of course, they should still use good search practices so we’re not charging the client needlessly – searching broadly and then narrowing the focus, thinking before clicking into documents, checking before getting material from outside our pricing plan.  You can refer back to materials saved to a folder for a year, for free.  I’m saving a ton of material to folders.
The “price triggers” that incur costs: initial search, opening a document, clicking on the keycite materials. 
Our firm’s flat-rate contract doesn’t cover the PDF images of reporters – that’s the only place where you’re not warned before getting material outside of our contract.
We did a firm survey last year, and honestly, most of our attorneys start their research process on Google because it’s free.  Once they have useful information (like a case name or a statute or a law review article), they’ll go online and find all the related documents and secondary sources.  WestlawNext does a really good job of that, and the new format for KeyCite makes it easy to trace between material types. 
One more caveat: Keycite and Shepards both may say a case is good law when underlying statutes or cases have been invalidated (not always, but sometimes).  They don’t always catch it when a case has been invalidated by new legislation, as well.  Knowing how far to trust citator services is important.

Only librarians have been given permission to use WLN.  We will be offering mandatory class(es) on the product before attorneys are given passwords to access it.  We are aware that the law school students have been exposed to WLN & will likely expect to use it upon entering into the firm environment, so our window to get up-to-speed is fast approaching.Caveats:  Not everything has been loaded into WLN, so it could be frustrating to attorneys when prompted to transition in the middle of their research  to go to Westlaw. We’re also not sure if the costs will increase since clicking on any results keeps adding up the total.  I know we librarians have had conference call discussions about some of the quirky searching & results . . . .  Do I like it?  I had a trial ID & have not used it much since our contract went into effect in January.  I’m still “on the fence” about it, but realize it is the wave of the future in this Googlish society.
The federal courts do not have WestlawNext at this time, and my understanding is that while the Administrative Office in D.C. has discussed it with Thomson-Reuters, there is no plan to purchase it for the federal judiciary in the near future.
We are using it.  The attorneys really like it.  One thing I’ve learned about it is that you should never choose the hourly setting on WestlawNext.  Always use it in transactional mode since the nature of it promotes lots of browsing time.  Most law firms are turning off the hourly feature and forcing transactional mode, but if not it can wreak havoc with your flat-rate contract client allocation.
My advice for students:  Know how much the search costs are before you do it.  And always call the research attorneys — they know their tool better than any of us ever will.
We aren’t using it in the [state] Judicial Branch.  It’s way too expensive and we can’t afford it!  And if Westlaw itself becomes too expensive for us we may be forced to use just one service.  Since Lexis has the official reporting contract, we must have access to them.
We do not have WestlawNext.  We did a trial of it and it has potential, but we are not willing to pay extra for it.
I see other problems besides cost for WestlawNext in law firms.  To oversimplify: Google on new steroids represents WestlawNext’s research model. That model shows remarkable detachment from application to real-life research problems in law firms.  The stock examples used in WestlawNext’s demos fit TR’s marketing well enough, but I could not translate them into everyday, online research done in law firms. I also see evidence of algorithmic anomalies – possibly widespread – that have only begun to be explored.
We have been using WLN for the past year.  We hopped on the band wagon pretty early due to a demo seen here by our litigation partners.  The litigation attorneys like it a lot.  Power users of regular Westlaw have a big learning curve so do not like it quite as much.  It is great, however, for researching an area you may be unfamiliar with since it will give you the most relevant cases up front.  Our attys like this feature.  The attys also like the cost..they can figure out how much their research will cost them before going in since a search runs about $65
and then you can open as many docs as you want until you hit your research budget ($15/doc. or so).  It relieves some the pressure they feel when going in.  I think it is here to stay.  Even [after] I have cancelled Lexis access here, cut my print budget and staffing, the WLN contract was added without blinking an eye. . . .
We require everyone to be trained first on regular Westlaw. We will then train them on WestlawNext.  There a cost pitfalls with both.  Searching is cheaper and broader with WestlawNext, but if you want to look at lots of documents, you will run up the costs. Initial searching Westlaw is probably narrower (have to select a database), but then the documents don’t cost additional to view.
I would recommend that students avoid WestlawNext like the plague until they have a solid grasp on doing research on their own.  You do not want to be dependant on an algorithm created by a corporation to be able to do an essential part of your job.
I think Next can be a valuable tool and time-saver for attorneys who understand what the algorithm is doing and what the resources are it is returning in the results, but I worry if students start learning how to research using Next, they will not be able to do any research when they leave school unless they are using, and paying a steep price for, Next.
The two main reasons [we don't have it] is that Westlaw would require us to have a separate contract for WestlawNext (we see this as paying for Westlaw twice), and WestlawNext does not have all of Westlaw’s content. . . .
Though honestly we haven’t embraced it completely and probably won’t until West tells us they are pulling the plug on classic.  I think it is a good product.  I like the $60.00 search and the left-hand screen that guides you to your hits.  The biggest issue is the pricing per document.  Those clicks just add up.  I am planning on asking our summer assoc. class if they are using Classic or NEXT, then based on the response, the rep. will concentrate on one or the other for the orientation. It will be interesting to see where the product stands with this first summer class who have potentially been using it at school.
We at the California Appellate Courts are not.  We have Westlaw and Lexis . . . [and] should be rolling out LMO [Lexis for Microsoft Office] soon, but that is as fancy as we are getting.