August 6, 2009
Updated: Did AALL Refuse Thomson-West Sponsorship Cash for the Annual Meeting? "Yes"
Update: AALL's decision has been confirmed by Bonnie Shucha. Sounds like Thomson-West is not on AALL's list of approved sponsors. See her comment to this post. Thanks Bonnie! For once, AALL has taken its role as a consumer advocacy organization seriously. So, if Thomson-West isn't an approved sponsor, should the Company be allowed to have a vendor booth in the exhibit hall?
Should law libraries be limiting their purchasing and renewing of Thomson-West products and services to only what is absolutely necessary? Considering current law library financial constraints and no real pricing accomodations to them by Thomson-West, it's time to tell the Company that business as usual is unacceptable; that a 32.1 percent operating profit margin is unacceptable, reported on LLB here, and citing Westlaw rises to legal publishing fame by selling free information, which includes the following statement:
[When Thomson acquired West, people] "doubted that Thomson would be able to squeeze more profit out of West, which was already posting 25 percent returns. But since its takeover, Thomson has consistently managed to attain 30 percent or higher profit margins. Legal information seems to be the sponge that won't dry."
Update 2: A message posted on AALL's law-lib listserv on Aug. 6 by Kate Hagan, AALL Executive Director has been added as a comment to this post. [JH]
LLB's initial post:
Did you notice that Thomson-West wasn't a Gold Sponsor for this year's AALL annual meeting? It came to my attention by omission when Gold Sponsors, companies that have contributed $75,001 or more, were acknowledged before the keynote presentation: "BNA, LexisNexis, Wolters Kluwer." No Thomson-West! A first in recent memory; those cheap SOBs!
But wait, rumors (seeking confirmation or denial) have been circulating that AALL refused Thomson-West sponsorship money and did so because the Company refuses to participate in AALL's annual price index. Interesting isn't it, particularly since this is a company that has no qualms about filing state FOIA requests for LexisNexis contracts from public law libraries.
Finally (Hopefully) Some Backbone from AALL. Just when I'm about to give up all hope for AALL ... kudos to the Past Presidents for allegedly doing this, particularly in this economy. Since Thomson-West is not a conference sponsor at any listed $$$ level on AALL's annual meeting sponsorship web page, I do believe something must be going on. If AALL held its ground for the price index, that's a very good thing. The Association's current price index is, well,
pretty useless; let's face it folks, we can't depend on Ken Svengalis to provide us with pricing information forever.
Sure, any AALL price index will pale in comparison with Ken's annual Legal Information Buyer's Guide & Reference Manual. The 2009 edition, featured on LLB here, tracks the costs of more than 2,500 publications, including more than 1,700 legal treatises and hundreds of the leading state and federal publications, provides supplementation costs from 1993 to and including 2008, and takes nearly five months of hard work every year (10-12 hours a day, 6-7 days/wk/) to produce.
However, the Association must insist that all major vendors supply pricing data for an official price index. It sounds like AALL finally took a firm stance on this matter, if the rumor is true. And if it is true, maybe next year, Thomson-West should be banned from the annual meeting's exhibit hall if the Company hasn't provided accurate and complete pricing data before Denver. [JH]
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Posted to law-lib on Aug. 6 by Kate Hagan, AALL Executive Director:
There was a recent posting on [the law-lib] listserv concerning the AALL sponsorship policy, so I thought it appropriate to provide you with accurate information on this issue.
This year, the Executive Board, at the recommendation of its Executive Committee, did not accept any sponsorship dollars from West. This was in compliance with the Association’s sponsorship policy that was adopted by the board at its April 2008 meeting and communicated to the membership on April 17, 2008. http://www.aallnet.org/press/announce-20080417.asp
The policy is as follows:
The Association reserves the right to refuse any offer of sponsorship at its absolute discretion or to negotiate with the sponsor concerning any aspect of a proposed sponsorship. The Association has the right to refuse sponsorships provided by business entities that do not contribute information to the Price Index for Legal Publications and/or comply with the Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers.
The entire sponsorship policy is on AALLNET at:
AALL did ask West to participate in the Price Index this year, but they declined to do so. Therefore, we did not accept any sponsorship from them for the 2009 Annual Meeting. This policy does not prohibit West from exhibiting at the Annual Meeting or from advertising in our publications.
Posted by: Joe Hodnicki | Aug 7, 2009 11:19:56 AM
I read Anne Ellis' response and respect both AALL's position and West's-- and I bow to your request not to make chatter on that posting. From what I read into Anne's response is that the survey creates more confusion than clarity. But, I have to think, is it the survey that is confusing, or is West's pricing scheme so complicated that it cannot be put into specific dollar amounts without a 100+ "except when" statements? I'm hoping that both organizations can find a middle ground on this issue and come up with some method of giving us something that we can use to judge the pricing of different vendors -- especially since most of us have to present these complicated pricing models to attorneys and administrators that want to be given the "bottom line number" on what it is going cost our organization to go with one vendor over another.
Hi Greg, "no chatter" wasn't a request. Feel free to chime in. I for one, find the content of the message insulting to law librarians' collective intelligence. -- Joe
Posted by: Greg Lambert | Aug 7, 2009 9:23:29 AM
I completely agree. If they do not participate, they should not even be on the floor of the exhibit hall. I also want to point out that NISO (Z39.50, OpenURL, DOI fame), which AALL would like us to work with as a whole, is working on a standard for a journal price index (it is called CORE). I hope that AALL is working with an organization that actually knows how to get a standard in place and make it work. Assuming, of course, that they are working on it.
Posted by: Vicki | Aug 5, 2009 1:42:00 PM
Yes, it is true. It was verified at the SIS Leadership meeting in DC.
We were asked to clear any requested sponsorships with AALL HQ in the future to make sure that the vendor was on the list of approved sponsors.
Posted by: Bonnie Shucha | Aug 5, 2009 1:21:52 PM