March 22, 2011
Perhaps "We" Just Don't Matter in Some Major Legal Vendors' Strategic and Marketing Plans Anymore
When I read vendor statements which in effect say that "our customers" wants this or that or have rejected this or that like TR Legal's recent statement, my initial reaction is how convenient to use such a boilerplate justification. My first question is which customers? Law librarians representing their institutional interests. Perhaps some but I doubt they are the majority of customer statements referenced, assuming such statements even exist.
Customer statements coming from solo practictioners, very small firms and public agencies where the point person is an office or fiscal manager unfamiliar with the ways and means of how legal vendors conduct business? For online legal search both Lexis and Westlaw are now targeting such small firms and small public agencies with some fixed-rate pricing plans. In print, WEXIS has typically had the advantage over such smaller subscribers who do not benefit from having a professional law librarian on staff to deal with them.
In the New Normal of vendors going after these markets in the Shed West Era, perhaps "we" don't matter. Just take the private sector for example. The ABA reports tha almost three-quarters of attorneys are private practitioners. Nearly half of them -- 48% to be exact -- are solos and 22% work in firms employing two to 10 attorneys. 76% work in law firms that only have 2-5 attorneys and this number increases to 89% when firms with up to 10 attorneys are included.
This is a sizable market of consumers uniformed by law librarian expertise in the legal consumer-vendor relationship. You bet our major vendors are taking advantage of that. I'm not stating or implying that these vendors are doing anything unlawful but it most definitely is a situation where caveat emptor applies. For examples, both based on personal experience, why would a local municipal court need a WEXIS online license for 10 users when the court has one judge and one magistrate and no one else needed online legal search to perform their work. Why would another county entity not get execution for reducing its print subs for an annually published deskbook from 9 to 2 copies by way of calling 1-800-Nameless until it just finally gave up trying. I'm afraid both of those instances involved the folks in the land of 10,000 invoices.
Can these diverse consumer groups rely on their professional associations to address these matters? Don't think so. It's up to AALL to lead the way by consumer advocacy which by doing so may bring buy-in from the ABA and various other organizations.
Speaking of perhaps "we" don't matter. Guess which very expensive legal vendor is a "Gold Sponsor" for the ABA's Tech Show taking place April 21-23, 2011 in Chicago but, at least at this moment, isn't a listed sponsor for AALL's annual meeting. Yup, it is TR Legal. There just might be a message here about who is and who is not important in marketing objectives and tactics. [JH]
|ABA TechShow 2011 Sponsors||AALL Annual Meeting 2011 Sponsors|
I would be very interested in having feedbacks from lawyers that have tried the Lexis Advance prototype. Have you seen anything around on the issue?
Many thanks! - Andrea
Posted by: Andrea Beneventi | Mar 23, 2011 1:59:12 AM
What I found sad at last year's AALL conference was the absence of top leadership from the vendors (with BNA as the exception). I attended one vendor event where the VP of Sales presented. In the past, it would have been the president or CEO talking to us. I think that should tell us something - especially if it is repeated this year.
-- Yup, Nina. I have offered to pick up the tab for TRI CEO Tom Glocer's travel expenses to Philly, subject to my limited personal resources (meaning my allowance from the Blog Widow) at http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/law_librarian_blog/2011/01/damn-tri-ceo-tom-glocer-not-eligible-for-aalls-hall-of-fame-or-emerging-leader-awards.html
I will say that a much larger than usual number of WEXIS reps, district manager and corporate types came to ORALL's annual meeting last year. No VPs but I wouldn't expect that at a chapter-level meeting (unless, perhaps NYC and DC). See http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/law_librarian_blog/2010/10/vendors-flock-to-orall-annual-meeting.html
Posted by: Nina Platt | Mar 22, 2011 9:01:17 AM
I used to work in the computer software industry, and I can assure you, "our customers don't want this" is Newspeak for "our customers keep begging us for this, but we aren't willing (or able) to provide it"
Posted by: Tracey | Mar 22, 2011 7:57:20 AM
I think the difference is that most legal publishers are no longer just publishers. They are part of more complicated organizations, where the legal research databases are an important piece in a much larger portfolio. I doubt that the ABA Techshow booths will be pushing legal research as much as Thomson Reuters Elite, LexisNexis Firm Manager and CaseMap, and a variety of other practice tools.
The proportion of the solo/small firm market in the larger legal market has not changed dramatically in the last 30 years. What's more likely is that these companies now have many more products to sell/license on which librarians are not experts or decision makers. And they have many more ways - other than sending out a sales rep - to make contact with these potential purchasers. As you note, most lawyers do not have librarians. There's nothing new in companies with legal products going directly to their clients, but as more things are available electronically - whether legal research or practice management - it's probably much easier for them to do so.
-- Yup David. Completely agree with the notion that they now self-identify as "professional legal services vendors." --Joe
Posted by: David Whelan | Mar 22, 2011 6:55:27 AM