« Opening: Assistant Director for Research and Online Services/Assistant Professor of Law Library Services, Chase Law Library, Northern Kentucky University | Main | BLaw Makes Its Push Into Law Schools »
April 23, 2012
BLaw's Acquisition of BNA as an Investment in Proven Human Capital
Few in the law library community would dispute the proposition that BNA has a very long track record for publishing some of the best damn legal resources in the industry and for having some of the best damn vendor account reps because they tend to focus on problem-solving with institutional buyers more than the quick sales (it helps to be salaried, not commission-based). One take-away from the Lou Andreozzi, Chairman of Bloomberg Law, interview during last Friday's LawLibCon podcast was BLaw's recognition that its acquisition of BNA was a strategic investment in proven human capital that was clearly needed for BLaw to become a major player. OK, "clearly needed to become..." may just be my opinion because my short-term memory is malfunctioning again. But I do recall that Lou indicated that BNA's proven human capital was one reason BLaw was willing to pay a premium for acquiring BNA. You can listen to the archived LawLibCon podcast here.
Lou tends to play his hand very close to his vest. For example, at a BLaw-hosted cocktail party in Philly last year, he said nothing but I could tell from the expression on his face that something was already up when I asked if I could get some sort of "finder's fee" should I be able to get the ball rolling for a successful deal. Hey, a little county law librarian whose most viable strategic objective for his retirement at the time was to be a Wall-Mart greeter at least has to try to to do something to save up some money to pay the cost of gas to get to Wall-Mart.
While we all tend to listen to some legal vendor executive types with a "ya whatever, dude" attitude, I don't believe this executive dude was expressing corporate pablum for the podcast's audience last Friday. More importantly, I have seen nothing so far to indicate that BLaw has been diluting the value of its investment in BNA's proven human capital. Let's hope that BLaw continues to recognize that not all editorial and sales workforces are equal in the very expensive professional legal services industry -- that the quality of legal resources produced ought not be reduced to a commodity and that the most productive relationship between a vendor and a buyer is one that offers constructive options in a problem-solving context.
Yes, I know, the acquisition of human capital sounds like some form of corporate slavery. At least it is not as fluffy an economic concept as the accounting concept that goodwill is. Remember when Thomson Reuters posted a fiscal year-end loss for 2011 because it took a $3 billion non-cash goodwill write-off to account for the decline in its financial services business? That's a case where human capital in TR's executive suites turned out to be a bad investment.
Endnote. In the podcast, one thing even my faulty short-term memory recalls is that Lou said BNA approached BLaw. Hey, was that before or after I starting expressing my 2-cents opinion on LLB that such a combination would be good for both BLaw and BNA? If after, I'm not claiming any credit whatsoever for this. Nor am I asking for something to supplement my now cancelled retirement plans to be a Wall-Mart greeter because apparently Wall-Mart has eliminated that position. But a round of drinks at a bar in Boston during AALL this summer would be nice. Just no Bud Light Lime, please! [JH]