May 10, 2012
Kill or Keep Standing Orders: Performing a Little Old School Due Diligence (And who should hire contract lawyers if predictive coding is so smart?)
Will contract lawyers currently performing document review grunt work be fishing for new jobs soon? See Kenneth Anderson's Is Contract Lawyering Doomed by Algorithm? on The Volokh Conspiracy. For a little background on predictive coding, see Sharon D. Nelson and John W. Simek's Slaw post, What’s Hot in E-Discovery? ("The way most lawyers engage in traditional keyword searches is, as others have suggested, the equivalent of 'Go Fish.'").
Here's a thought. Perhaps some of our legal publishers will follow Bloomberg Law's example of hiring unemployed but experienced attorneys for editorial jobs. Sure beats hiring some kids straight out of law school to KeyCite old copy and then push the "send to manufacturing" button to spit out an "updated" pocket part or a "replaced" annual pamphlet edition. Under current legal labor market conditions, there is plenty of "supply" for cheap legal workforce needs. Hell, it might even improve editorial quality. This work can even be contracted out to stay-at-home editors.
Will, for example, Pangea3's job ads state "And other duties as assigned including but not limited to editing TR Legal publications"? For one recent once but no longer web store banner tag-lined "trusted legal resource from..." print title, we found 20 or so additional cases listed in the table of authorities and four less pages of text in the body of the work. I gave up looking for fresh edited content after comparing some 20 pages from last year's to this year's version. Didn't see any content changes but I did observe that this year's version displayed some quirky type format changes which pushed content around. A couple of pages later, I ended my page-by-page review because that was the only difference I had found. Of course, I probably should have compared the 550-plus additional pages but I got distracted by the kill-keep standing order question.
I'm leaning towards "kill." Our practitioners can do at least as good a job checking latter case history and treatment as some nameless over-worked and under-supervised editorial assistant. Heck, our practitioners will even remember to check for and then will understand federal and state statutory changes. The only matter that awaits a final decision on my part is whether or not to kill each title one at a time or issue a kill order for all of them at the same time.
I'm thinking the latter because customer service reps are pretty busy dealing with Account Receivables requests over the fiasco caused by the acquisition of this title. It is pretty damn bad when well-meaning customer service reps who are trying to do a good job have to deal with "customer experience and education" like we mere customers do. (Note well current subscribers, once you get past the due diligence this Company's AR department wants you to perform for it, the post-acquisition subscription renewal rate has only been jacked up about 25 percent -- just might not be worth it.) Perhaps that company should have outsourced its due diligence? What if it did?
My hunch is you know the identity of the publisher and the poor souls dealing with their own AR department. Did I mention that the admitted incomplete examination mentioned above was for the latest annual pamphlet edition of a secondary legal title published by the folks in the Land of 10,000 Invoiced "New Editions"? Ah well, mailed print sale brochures from "TR Westlaw" for once "updated" loose-leaf print titles that have been pamphlet switcherooed now only indicate that they are "replaced annually." Only those loose-leaf titles that haven't yet experienced a format switcheroo carry the "updated" tag. But remember
"customer feedback ... clearly preferred the pamphlet [format] for updates for certain kinds of products."
Perhaps "replacements" would have been a better word choice.
What does "new" mean? Perhaps TR's legal department issued a CYA directive to the Company's print ad copywriters. Hell if I know. Is "Replaced Edition" a more accurate tag than "New Edition" on WestMart page displays? To borrow from a Clintonian push-back, it all depends on what "new" means. For me, "new" means keep or kill a standing order. Since I buy many multiple copies of many annually "replaced" titles for our little county law library collection plus office copies for my statutory users, the time will come when it very well just may mean kill them all.
We're not just dealing with "replaced" editions of overpriced court rules anymore. Click on the "customer feedback" link above for some generalities about where this form of "predictive coding" is heading. [JH]
Joe, one advantage to the pamphlet editions is that you can buy alternate years or less frequently. In a multi-office law firm you can have a single standing order (at a lower price than off standing order) and use it to supply copies to two or more locations. It takes some tracking but is a real cost savings to us.
-- Yup, I completely agree. The same, however, has always been true for any loose-leaf or pocket-part updated work. Kill, buy new, three years later.
The format change to pamphlet editions, however, is really just staging for ProViewing the titles wherein the sales pitch for TR Legal's eBooks will be "all your annotations from last year's edition will carry over to this year's 'replaced" edition."
According to TR Legal, the reason folks weren't buying annual editions each year was because the users "didn't want to lose" their notes. Really? Too costly for marginal editorial changes had nothing to do with that "not buy" decision?
Thanks for your comment, Joe
Posted by: law firm librarian | May 10, 2012 10:36:08 AM