March 25, 2010
Shock and Awe-Inspiring: All Your WestlawNext Pricing Questions Answered in a Simple Two-Page Handout
"You got to love a clearly written two-page document," writes Greg Lambert about "WestlawNext: Overview of Chargeable Events and Chargeable Time." The TR Legal guide identifies "twenty-four scenarios along with three footnotes listing caveats to some of the scenarios," according to Greg. (Emphasis added) I'm taking Greg's word because I stopped counting after 10. Ran out of fingers.
In his post, Greg reminds folks, "don't forget to multiply those per minute charges by 60 and let everyone at your firm know that accessing a brief will cost you $3,300.00 an hour." See his post WestlawNext Pricing - Simple Chart to Answer All Your Questions for the two-page chart. I suggest you download and enlarge it. If your kid has a science fair project coming up, it will make an excellent posterboard display for a project on collective psychopathy. At what point in the many meetings that produced this pricing scheme, do someone forget to ask, "don't you think we might be going about this in the wrong way with "New Lexis" on the horizon and consumer preference clearly in favor of predictable, fixed rate pricing?"
In a comment to his own post, Greg adds "I know that a lot of attorneys were really excited when this resource first came out, but I'm not sure if that excitement continues today." I, for one, have to wonder how many attorneys are going to sit through an explanation of the 24 scenarios before deciding to just say no to WestlawNext until TR Legal comes up with a more reasonable, predictable and simplified pricing mechanism.
TR Legal has achieved a new height in screwing up the launch of a new product. I'm actually beginning to feel sorry for the programmers who developed the new search engine. Of course, when you work for the only legal publisher who believes the market has hit bottom and thinks it can maintain its 32 percent profit margin (vis a vis other legal publishers who would be happy to hit a 25% profit margin target in 2010) because the Company owns something like a 40% share of the market and also believes clients of Westlaw users will be delighted to pay for the results of their shiny new search engine regardless of cost, delusional behavior should come as no surprise. At the moment it looks to me like WestlawNext may end up being a Harvard Business School case study of how the shock and awe of naked duopolism can stop consumers dead in their tracks.
TR Legal is going to have some choices to make. Shut down Westlaw sooner rather than later and try to cram down WestlawNext at the expense of alienating its subscriber base or rethink its short-sighted profit objectives and current online pricing models. Those of us who have been around since the beginning of very expensive online legal search, have seen pricing schemes come and go with one clear trend -- consumer momentum has been heading toward predictable fixed rate costs. TR Legal is trying to buck this trend in a very big way.
Wait for "New Lexis" Before Making a Decision About WestlawNext. One has to think that Lexis is watching consumer reaction to WestlawNext pricing and is seeing an opportunity here to gain market share at TR Legal's expense. The best approach in my opinion is to hold off getting locked into WestlawNext until you can evaluate your options upon the arrival of "New Lexis" next year.
Had TR Legal been smart instead of arrogant it had an opportunity to grab market share from Lexis this year by pitching its new search engine while offering reasonably priced fixed rate plans for WestlawNext. Oops. No wonder TR Legal WestlawNext roadshows started off with a statement that no questions about pricing would be answered. [JH]