October 8, 2012
The No Sacred Cow Models: Sole Provider, Primary Provider, or Multiple Narrow-Focused Providers for Online Legal Search in the Private Sector
On 3 Geeks, Greg Lambert reported that BigLaw Foley & Lardner has gone the sole legal search provider route (Lexis) recently.
For many of us in the law library world, we've been waiting for a BigLaw firm (Foley falls in at #45 in the AmLaw100 revenue rankings) to pull the trigger and go to a single legal research provider. Now we have someone to use as an example. Now that the seal is off that bottle, it will be interesting to see how many other BigLaw firms finally start looking seriously at dropping the two-vendor legal research model and start going as a Westlaw, Lexis, or even Bloomberg Law only shop.
I have no idea if Foley is the first AmLaw 100 firm to go the sole provider route. Certainly many mid-size law firms have gone sole provider since the 2008 recession because there are no sacred cows anymore. WEXIS no more; Lexis or Westlaw but not both. Do we add "or BLaw"? Not yet. With only two uber BigLaw firms on board for US-firmwide access and no public information that either have taken BLaw as a sole provider, about all one can say is that BLaw may be either one of two or three search providers or the primary provider offered to users at those firms.
The provider model is evolving from both Lexis and Westlaw to
- Sole Provider: Lexis or Westlaw but not both.
- Primary Provider: a more comprehensive plan for Lexis or Westlaw or BLaw with smaller plans as secondary provider(s) with or with limiting the number of user accounts at the firm level.
When the dust settles, I think there will also be a third model. Multiple narrow-focused licenses for Lexis Advance, WestlawNext and BLaw for select groups of institutional users based on a selection of in-plan only access to secondary sources that each practice group user population requires. Add into the institutional buyer decision matrix (1) any appropriate productivity "solutions" that tie into search needed by specific user populations of institutional buyers and (2) the eventual licensing of enhanced eBooks with their own tie-ins to the vendor's search service which will certainly cannibalize database inclusions in future search licenses.
Given that all three vendors provide essentially the same primary legal sources and that none of their next gen current gen metadata-enhanced search engines are convincingly better than any other despite marketing claims, my hunch is that eventually the dominate model in the private sector, particularly in the BigLaw sector, may end up becoming licensing multiple narrow-focused search plans from Lexis, TR Legal and BLaw which are limited to targeted user populations based on the spectific secondary sources and tools needed online,
Of course, this is where the editorial quality of secondary legal sources becomes a competitive advantage in the context of the current WEXIS model of content commodization (think BLaw-BNA offerings) but also intelligent professional grade workflow solutions (think forthcoming WK offerings for some legal practice group specialities). [JH]
I work for a state attorney general's office with about 450 lawyers on the civil side. We have been Lexis-only for at least the last 5 years, with any Westlaw-specific citations having to be requested through our law librarian. I have so far experienced no discernible research disadvantage compared to the private sector lawyers on the opposing side.
Posted by: AG | Oct 9, 2012 7:51:26 PM
As a small firm by national standards, but a big firm by our state's standards, we've been using the single-provider model for years--with no serious consequences except a few kvetches from those who prefer the provider we rejected.
Posted by: John Hightower | Oct 8, 2012 8:33:00 AM