April 23, 2012
BLaw Makes Its Push Into Law Schools
Bloomberg Law is making an aggressive push into the academic market. The offer to schools is interesting to say the least. Any school that subscribes to the BNA Premier Service will receive a significant discount on their subscription charge and free access to Bloomberg Law. That discount can be in tens of thousands of dollars for an acknowledged high quality legal database. What Bloomberg asks in return, is parity with the way other electronic legal research services are treated at law schools. This general statement is from the promotional literature provided by Bloomberg Law lays out what it wants from law schools:
- Provide Bloomberg Law with information necessary to register each eligible individual user.
- Incorporate Bloomberg Law into the first-year legal research and writing curriculum.
- Assist Bloomberg Law in providing ongoing training opportunities consistent with other full-service online legal research services.
- Market and advertise Bloomberg Law and training opportunities and resources to market Bloomberg Law consistent with other full-service online research providers.
- Permit Bloomberg Law to recruit student representatives.
Requirements listed above to be provided in a manner that is no less favorable to Bloomberg than the manner provided to other full-service online legal research services. The reduced pricing on your Bloomberg BNA contract is contingent upon maintaining this agreement with Bloomberg Law.
Some of these requirements as stated above are getting some buzz in the academic law library community. The first requirement has raised concerns about schools complying with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). I’ll just mention in passing that we sign up students to Lexis and Westlaw without any FERPA problems. Bloomberg has indicated that it would be flexible enough to deal with students and schools so that FERPA compliance is not an issue.
Incorporating Bloomberg Law into the first-year legal research and writing curriculum raises initial questions. This comes from the fact that schools vary greatly in how they position electronic legal research in the first year curriculum, or in law school generally. Bloomberg understands this. Company representatives came to my school last Thursday and clarified that the statement means a school should provide equal treatment to Bloomberg in the curriculum compared to Lexis and Westlaw. The qualifying statement immediately following the bullet points above sort of says that. I’d be more interested in seeing the actual contract for service as it will contain the real terms and obligations of the parties. In the meantime, anyone with doubts to the meaning of integration within the curriculum should ask a Bloomberg representative to fully explain this language.
A few other points came out at the meeting. Unlike Lexis and Westlaw, Bloomberg is not providing free printing options for students and faculty, at least as of now. I’m not sure this is much of a problem. There are opportunities for students to save on the system and share with other Bloomberg Law users. My own personal feeling is that some students print excessively on Lexis and Westlaw simply because they can. There may be grumbling at a lack of this option, but I see the upside as less paper waste.
On the other hand, the students get something valuable that Lexis and Westlaw regularly deny them, and that is the ability to use their Bloomberg Law IDs for outside work without violating ethical rules. I had to stop the Bloomberg representative from continuing because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. To clarify, a student possessing a Bloomberg ID can use that ID for research if he or she is clerking for an outside firm or as a summer associate. I think this is a shrewd move on the part of Bloomberg. It promotes the use of the service for students in real life research situations and it gets the service some visibility in law offices that may be potential customers in the future. The ability to use the ID may make students more attractive as hires for outside work.
I’ve been using Bloomberg Law for almost two years. Personally, I like it a lot. It’s a different kind of research service. All the primary stuff is there, but the initial focus is on the news and current awareness. That probably comes from the experience on the business side. As a self-professed news junkie, it gives me a reason to log into Bloomberg Law regularly. I can’t say that the current Lexis and Westlaw interfaces encourage that. I like the fact that Bloomberg articles tend to include relevant documents as attachments when they are available. The business research materials are an added bonus in this age of information convergence.
The docket feature is a real alternative to PACER. We regularly retrieve documents from PACER for law review members and research assistants. Here’s an opportunity for self-help. The fact that Bloomberg is developing their own version of a state-based PACER system is attractive for some research situations. Other features include an electronic citator and a growing body of secondary sources. Bloomberg may not have the list of publications available on Lexis or Westlaw, but the purchase and integration of BNA shows the company is aggressive about competing in the electronic legal research market. I can only wonder what’s next.
Let me theorize for a moment. Everyone is going social. I’m surprised Lexis or Westlaw hasn’t developed the West Legal Directory or Martindale Hubbell into social sites where lawyers and students can hang out. Bloomberg could easily extend its current awareness emphasis to crowd-sourced interactive sharing. Either that or it could buy LinkedIn and integrate it into the service. As much as I decline to actively participate in social networking services online, I could easily see this evolving to give students and lawyers a reason to log into a research service beyond getting documents.
If any of this seems a bit too effusive, I’m drawn to the deal Bloomberg is offering compared to the benefits for students and the less expensive access to BNA. The substance is certainly there as a viable research service. Bloomberg is definitely is a change from Lexis and Westlaw. I hope the two competitors react to this. Neither company has leveraged their secondary publications side in deals as aggressively as Bloomberg has with BNA. There was a time when Lexis and Westlaw competed heavily with each other in the law school market. Now it’s just tee shirts and cups, if that, and I'm sure we all have plenty by now. I don’t know if Bloomberg is going to succeed in law schools. It sure will make the competition interesting. [MG]
Your headline "BLaw Makes It's Push Into Law Schools" confuses the possessive "Its" with the contraction "It's." It's [it is] all spelled out in the bestselling book "Eats, Shoots and Leaves."
Posted by: Otto Stockmeyer | May 15, 2012 11:30:16 AM
So much for Bloomberg Law's transparency in pricing. If the statement below from the Law Librarian Blog is accurate it appears BLaw pricing transparency is out the window as there is a different price for law school libraries versus law firm libraries. "Any school that subscribes to the BNA Premier Service will receive a significant discount on their subscription charge and free access to Bloomberg Law." The main requirement for this pricing is providing parity in promotion of the BLaw service similar to the law schools promotion of Lexis and Westlaw! Seems unfair to me!
Posted by: Cheryl Niemeier | Apr 24, 2012 12:02:36 PM