March 16, 2010
In re WestlawNext Pricing: "Hi, My Name is Johnny Westlaw, You Got the Money?"
"The presentation began with a statement that no questions about pricing will be answered at this time," wrote Mark Giangrande in his LLB post reporting on attending the WestlawNext roadshow in Chicago. Ah, OK. I bet that means the most frequently asked question at earlier roadshows was "how much" because there are no sacred cows left.
While unwilling to discuss pricing at the roadshows, TR Legal has been mailing out their amended boilerplate licensing agreements with WestlawNext pricing included in the new Schedule A's (cover letter, left, click to enlarge if you haven't received one yet).
New Schedule A's for TR Legal Licensing Agreements. Get your colored pencils out to map out pricing. Here's three examples that have been floating around: (1) Plan 1 Private Service, (2) Plan 2 WestlawPRO for State and Local Government Agencies -- Government Service and (3) Plan 2J WestlawPRO for State and Local Judiciary -- Government Service
Some Very General Pricing Information. For invoice-paying law librarians, Mark Schiff, TR VP, Product Marketing, was willing to share some very general WestlawNext pricing information in a CRIV interview with Caren Biberman, Director of Library & Information Services, Cahill Gordon & Reindel. Biberman writes
[W]e discussed the general pricing structure. Mark indicated that while they believed transactional was the more natural model and aligns best with price and value, WestlawNext would also have an hourly pricing option.
Westlaw.com has 18 different prices for transactional searching. WestlawNext has a single price for transactional searching and that cost will always be an included cost within your plan. When you are delivered the result set there is no charge for perusing the result set list. When you click on a document and view it you will be charged and the charge will be included or excluded from your plan, depending on your plan and the content you are viewing. When you put a document you viewed in a Folder there is no charge and you can continue to view that document at no additional cost for one year. After the year is up, the document will still be in the folder, and if you view it you will be charged another transactional charge. If you put a document into a folder without first viewing it you will be charged at the point you view the document. There will also still be printing, emailing and downloading charges.
If you choose the hourly pricing structure your hourly rate will depend on where you are in WestlawNext. If you are on the Home Page or browsing off the Home page there will be one hourly rate and that will always be an included charge under your plan. When you are perusing the result set list that will be a different hourly charge which will also be an included charge under your plan. Then when you are viewing a particular document there will be a different hourly rate that depends on what you are viewing and which will be included or excluded depending on your plan.
OK, I'm in a bronchitis-induced fog, but the message is clear -- "you will be charged" -- so under either of these WestlawNext pricing models, your user population better memorize your licensing agreement's new Schedule A. Again, being in a bronchitis-induced fog for the past week, pardon me for asking, but are these the only pricing models for WestlawNext? By that I mean, what about the law library budget's best friend -- will there be pure fixed rate contracts for WestlawNext when there is only WestlawNext?
WestlawNext: TR Legal's New Cash Cow Whore. I ask about fixed rate contracts in the WestlawNext-only era because I have no intention of paying TR Legal up to $3,400 per hour for WestlawNext searching. See Greg Lambert's post, WestlawNext Pricing - Up To $3400 Per Hour!!. It is required reading. I mean, it is absolutely required reading. A snip:
WestlawNext pricing, this is a separate billing model from your existing Westlaw.com pricing guide. Also, remember that WestlawNext gives you results from all of the WestlawNext databases, regardless of if those are in your contract. The good news is that you get a great results list that is comprehensive. The bad news is if one of your users clicks on one of those results and views the document that is out of contract, the ancillary charges below kick in. Whoa to the first-year associate that clicks on a 50-State Survey and reads it online for an hour or two!!
At the moment, it sounds like TR Legal is returning to the bad old days of variable search expenses for what we must now call uber expensive legal search from the folks in the land of 10,000 invoices who just might be hell bent on whoring online legal search to recoup losses from pricing themselves out of the print market. Greg's "whoa" reaction reminds me of the WTF reaction to search charges by billing partners back in the mid-1980s when Lexis introduced a pricing structure that netted young associates racking up huge search session costs. And Lexis' pricing triggers weren't nearly as complex as WestlawNext's is. Doesn't TR Legal realize that this scheme is going to put the fear of god into legal researchers, sending many to seek out lower cost alternatives. The whole "Johnny Westlaw" thing takes on a new meaning where legal searchers and their institutional buyers are the "Johns" for the folks in Eagan.
The Psychedelic Structure of WestlawNext's Pricing. Are these people really that arrogant to think institutional buyers are going to buy into this new pricing scheme just because they have a 40% share of the market? Granted, I tripped on LSD more than once in the late 1960s but I guess I need the Jimi Hendrix Experience from drinking the corporate kool-aid.concocted by TR Legal to fully appreciate the psychedelic structure of WestlawNext's pricing. I'm already having a flashback to the 1980s. Do these folks really believe their current pricing models for WestlawNext are going to fly long-term? Do they see Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds in this age of client push-back on online charges?
There is a "way out of here." Institutional buyers, law firms but also government agencies and public law libraries, will look for another vendor, oh, say Lexis, who will help do that. If Lexis is foolish enough to go this route with "New Lexis," then everyone better bank on LAW.GOV succeeding because the editorial quality of West, regardless of what Bob Berring thinks, just isn't worth this. Go ahead, get more talking heads for more videos; law librarians know better.
Greg's post is based on locating WestlawNext: Pricing Guide for Commercial Plans. Thanks Greg for ferreting out this information. He, not the notorious TR Legal "librarian relations" program headed by Anne Ellis, has helped to fill in the huge gaping hole of information about WestlawNext pricing. I guess the WestlawNext Pricing Guide for Commercial Plans wasn't blog worthy enough for Ellis to use to respond to pricing information questions to her first post in the blogosphere.
"Depending on Your Plan." The Plan, this is of course the key to pricing under either the transactional searching or hourly pricing models. No doubt Johnny or Jenny Westlaw will have plenty to say about your current plan and how it should be tweaked during "upgrade" negotiations. Here's an illustration from Lisa Solomon's WestlawNext negotiations. Lisa is quoting from a email sent to her by her Westlaw rep:
This proposal contains a straight migration of your All Cases & Statutes NY Gold with Regs Plus and adds the All Analytical library. The Law Reviews & Journals portion of your plan is a part of the All Analytical plan and therefore is not listed as a stand alone database. This proposal contains ALR, AmJur, AmJur POF, Causes of Action, Federal Practice and Procedure, etc., and captures the vast majority of your Results Plus usage. Based on your usage, the biggest missing piece in this proposal is CJS which you accessed approximately once a month through Results Plus.
This proposal is a step up in analytical content and includes CJS and the Restatements.
For this proposal I took a look at your usage of the CFR. Over the past year you have accessed the CFR 8 times, so it is a database that you may consider dropping.I kept you in All Cases & Statutes and added the NY Analytical plan to replicate the content of a NY Gold package. I added the All Analytical and included CJS as a stand alone subscription.
Sound familiar? Yup, same sort of used car sales tactics used in pre-WestlawNext licensing negotiations. See There's Nothing Next in WestlawNext's Marketing and Sales Tactics.
Usage-Based WestlawNext Negotiations. Hum, "based on your usage," says Johnny Westlaw. Show me the data, all the data. While many large law firms spend a fair amount of money to monitor online usage (will these programs be able to track WestlawNext usage?), most law libraries cannot afford the cost of the software and ought not need to because the data is obviously available to Johnny Westlaw. Lucky for me, I've got a few months left on my fixed-rate Westlaw contract so I don't have to deal with this yet. But I certainly will be taking Anne Ellis' advice when my Westlaw rep comes around later this year:
... a one-on-one discussion with an expert from our sales team is the best way to get started. Our Westlaw reps can help you understand how WestlawNext fits into your practice, how it compares to Westlaw on content, cost and other factors, and whether this is the right time to consider the new platform.
I always follow Anne's advice -- "other factors," like usage, right?
If TR Legal's "Librarian Relations" Program is something more than just another source of marketing pablum, I hope you get the message across to those experts in your sales team that if they want to convince us that this is the right time to consider WestlawNext, then make usage data available so we can perform an independent analysis -- all of the data for the last 12 months, not just the cherries reps choose to pick. Facts, not factoids, will be persuasive.
Knowing how customer convenience is a hallmark of West service, let's have the data available online all the time or at least supplied digitially in spreadsheets (not PDFs) well ahead of meetings with Westlaw reps. Then, I think, most law librarians may, just may welcome the opportunity to discuss moving to WestlawNext with their Westlaw reps . Hell, it's not like we're asking that the supplied data must first be audited and certified by an independent accounting firm, although maybe we should.
In view of your Company's less than stellar track record, isn't it about time to replace used car sales tactics with a partnership based on action, If not, just trash the whole partnership rhetoric as another failed marketing slogan. Replace it with "hi, we're TR Legal, we're here to screw you because we really like our 30-plus percent profit margins."
Westlaw's Retirement "Years" Away (Maybe). Perhaps the best, if true, news can be found at the end of Biberman's interview with Schiff:
Finally we discussed the future of Westlaw.com. Mark stated that while they will continue to add and update content on Westlaw.com, he didn’t believe we would see lots of new features development. The long term vision is that there be a single platform, WestlawNext, but there is no date for the retirement of Westlaw.com and Mark believes it will be “years.”
Years, yes, it might take that long to sort out whether WestlawNext is more about increasing online revenue to offset print revenue losses than it is about offering a new search engine (and that's all WestlawNext is offering). In my opinion, when it comes to TR Legal, only one thing matters -- $$$. Of course, this is only Schiff's belief ... meaning, VP or not, there is absolutely no reason to believe he really has a clue when TR Legal will pull the plug on Westlaw.
My hunch is Westlaw's plug will be pulled sooner rather than later if WestlawNext's adoption rate is lower and slower than anticipated. Here's what to look for -- TR Legal will substantially increase the pricing of its legacy Westlaw service during the "years" Schiff says it will remain available. How many "years"? One more multi-year Westlaw licensing agreement, assuming you are even willing to accept a multi-year licensing agreement when Johnny or Jenny Westlaw come a-knocking on your door, asking ""you got the money for WestlawNext now?" [JH]
For those of you already reeling from skyrocketing "excluded charges" each month on top of your monthly flat rate, be forewarned! If you decide to keep westlaw.com but also make WestlawNext available to your users, then EVERY time a user runs a search a $10 fee is added to your bill as excluded usage! Viewing, downloading, and keyciting also have fees ($5 down to $2 per document also added as an excluded charge). It doesn't matter if the result you view is from a database included in your contract. If you got there by using the WestlawNext platform you will be assessed the additional EXCLUDED" usage fees listed in the new pricing schedule and that will be ADDED to your monthly flat rate! Read the pricing schedule. It's all in there and we also confirmed with our rep. We're boycotting WestlawNext usage. Time to slay this Goliath!
Posted by: Banned in Boston | Mar 19, 2010 8:50:06 AM
Dear Lord folks, talk to your Westlaw rep. Flat rate plans are already available. Content will match your current plan, or exceed it if you choose to upgrade. It is a new product so expect to pay a premium. If you don't like this, stop whining and DO NOT USE OR BUY THE PRODUCT.
-- Mr. Research, do note that Westlaw is a legacy system and like all legacy systems, it's time on this planet is nearly an end. The question being posed is will there be flat rate plans in the WestlawNext-only era. If so, why wasn't that identifed as a third pricing option? Joe
Posted by: Mr Research | Mar 18, 2010 7:18:11 AM