April 13, 2009
Should LexisNexis and Thomson West Be Worried About the Economy's Turbulence?
BetaNews is reporting that 96 percent of participants in the latest Future of Open Source 2009 Survey said they think the economy's turbulence is "good" for open source. According to the report, open source software will be "most disruptive" over the next five years to IT sectors that include databases and operating systems. When asked to identify the sector most susceptible to disruption, 52% of respondents pointed to databases, 36% to OS, 28% to business intelligence, and 22% to Web content management.
Beyond Lexis & Westlaw. While the IT sector survey did't include online legal research, we have to wonder whether the current economic climate will be "good" for free and low cost legal research services. Previously LLB reported on academic law libraries placing more emphasis on this sector by publishing guides that focus on alternatives to LexisNexis and Westlaw for online legal research. See the excellent work produced by Georgetown and UCLA, for example.
An LLB poll conducted in September of last year found that the vast majority of law librarians neither use nor provide training in the use of some free services, namely PreCYdent, PLoL and/or AltLaw. The results, of course, may have more to say about the perceived quality of these services and the low-cost plans offered by LexisNexis and Westlaw to law schools. But the ABA Journal's summary of the 2008 Legal Technology Survey Report did report that the number of lawyers performing free online legal research has overtaken the number using fee-based services for the first time. (89% used free online legal research while 87% used fee-based research services) and that trend may increase because of the economics on online legal research.
LLB's recent informal poll on the financial situation law libraries are finding themselves in because of the dismal state of the US economy found that the brunt of budget cuts will be library collections. 82% of the respondents who are facing or expecting to face budget reducations reported that library collections will be "hardest hit" area of library operations. One assumes, rightly I believe, that print materials are more likely to face the axe than online resources but certainly in some libraries expensive online resources will not be exempt from cancellations, cutbacks in negotiated plans, or shifts to low cost or free online legal services as a matter of institutional research policy. See, e.g., Large Law Firm Sets New Online Research Policy: Use Loislaw First.
Faced with substantial budget cuts to library collections and legal research policy changes, we think it timely to ask if law librarians are seeing a shift to free and low cost legal research services at the expense of Lexis and Westlaw use. So will the current economic situation be "good" for free and low cost online legal research services -- do you see or expect to see patrons use them more frequently than in the past? And if so, will it be temporary or permanent once the economy improves -- should LexisNexis and Westlaw be worried?
Finally with substantial annual price increases for continuations in print and substantially less for online legal services, a related question: should LexisNexis and West be worried about the cancellation of print titles because many of their regularly updated print titles are duplicated in their online services.
Thanks in advance for taking a moment to participate in our poll. [JH]
Is the Economy's Turbulence "Good" for Free and Low Cost Online Legal Research Services
and "Bad" for LexisNexis and Thomson West Print Continuation Renewals?
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Interlibrary loan is way, way up after declining for the past five years. "I'll just pop online" is being replaced with "I'll just wait for the book"
Posted by: At a large firm | Apr 14, 2009 6:08:09 AM
For what it's worth, at Fastcase, we're seeing a *ton* of interest from AmLaw 100 firms, who are subscribing enterprise-wide on behalf of newly cost-sensitive clients. We literally can't hire large-firm reps fast enough to meet the demand. In this economy, who wants to pass through (or eat?!?) tens of thousands of dollars worth of legal research bills? Much better to use a better value service (many quite good now) and save everyone money.
Posted by: Ed Walters | Apr 13, 2009 1:55:24 PM