June 29, 2012
Congress and the Courts: New a-la-carte library from HeinOnline once again demonstrates the Company knows its legal bibliography
Quoting from the HeinOnline Blog post:
[The new Congress and the Courts] library focuses on development and growth of the federal courts and the judiciary as a source of original material of congressional fact finding and decision making. Decades of legislative intent, testimony, and pre-enactment history is provided in one centralized library.
Congress and the Courts features:
Congress & the Courts: A Legislative History 1787-2010 Compiled by William H. Manz
Federal Judicial Center Publications
Other Related Works, including Administrative Conference of the United States: Recommendations and Reports – Vols. 1-4, 1978-1995 (1968-1995)
Periodicals, including Federal Probation – Vols. 1-75 (1937-2011)
Links to Scholarly Articles
CFR Title 28 – Judicial Administration
The post notes that libraries on standing order for Congress & the Courts: A Legislative History 1787-2010 by William H. Manz will have complimentary access to the entire a-la-carte library in HeinOnline through December 2012. Congress and the Courts will appear as a subscribed library under one's HeinOnline account until then. For additional information, see HeinOnline's Congress & the Courts brochure.
There is still a need for expert legal bibliography in the 21st century. Once again, it is good to see that there remains one vendor in the industry that knows how to use legal bibliographic skills to create a database research service which provides relevant primary and secondary resources. HeinOnline consistly proves that legal bibliography has an important contribution to make to online legal search. Some of our very expensive search vendors could take a lesson from HeinOnline. Just because they publish this or that title doesn't automatically make those titles worthy for expensive bundled database inclusion. [JH]
June 28, 2012
HathiTrust Better Than Google for Full-Text Access to Federal Gov Docs
Quoting from the conclusion of A Comparison of HathiTrust and Google Books Using Federal Publications by Laura Sare (Texas A&M), 2 Practical Academic Librarianship 1, 21-22 (2012):
Since most users want access to full-text, HathiTrust offers the best database for finding government documents after 1923. Users concerned with privacy issues may prefer HathiTrust or want to use Google Books while logged out of their Google account. Those familiar with the Google eBookstore or who want the added functionality of data visualization to read and provide reviews may prefer Google Books. Regarding record overlap, HathiTrust had a greater percentage of publication records also available in Google Books, but with fewer records overall, while Google Books had records for more government documents than HathiTrust, and therefore a smaller overlap range. These results show that if a user cannot find a federal document in HathiTrust, Google Books might have a “Snippet” view record for that document and that record may provide more information for users to determine if the document is one that would be useful to them. However, caution is also advised for Google Books’ records, as metadata mistakes on the full-text and “Snippet” view records should be taken into account by librarians and users alike.
Free Government Information highlights the reasons for this conclusion at Comparing Hathitrust and Google Books as repositories of government documents. [JH]
June 26, 2012
Web Cites in Supreme Court Opinions
The Supreme Court opinions yesterday generated a lot of news coverage as end-of-term opinions usually do. That coverage missed a point. Two of the three opinions contained research citations that appear to be a trend at the Supreme Court. These are citations with links to web sites and pages that contain information that supports the view of the opinion author (and the Court by extension). For example, Justice Kagan cites statistics from Human Rights Watch as part of her analysis on state practices giving life without parole to juvenile murderers in Miller v. Alabama. This is from footnote 10:
According to available data, only about 15% of all juvenile life-without parole sentences come from those 15 jurisdictions, while 85% come from the 29 mandatory ones. See Tr. of Oral Arg. in No. 10–9646, p. 19; Human Rights Watch, State Distribution of Youth Offenders Serving Juvenile Life Without Parole (JLWOP), Oct. 2, 2009, online at http://www.hrw.org/news/2009/10/02/state-distribution-juvenile-offendersserving-juvenile-life-without-parole (as visited June 21, 2012, and available in Clerk of Court’s case file). That figure indicates that when given the choice, sentencers impose life without parole on children relatively rarely. And contrary to THE CHIEF JUSTICE’s argument, see post, at 5, n. 2, we have held that when judges and juries do not often choose to impose a sentence, it at least should not be mandatory.
Justice Kennedy has 5 citations to web sources in the Arizona v. United States opinion, though all of them are to government web sites such as the Department of Homeland Security or that of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
There is a paper on SSRN called Confronting Supreme Court Fact Finding by Alli Or Larsen that examines this trend of citing outside research in detail. Here’s the abstract:
Supreme Court justices routinely answer factual questions about the world – such as whether violent video games have a harmful effect on child brain development or whether a partial birth abortion is ever medically necessary. The traditional view is that these findings are informed through the adversary system: by reviewing evidence on the record and briefs on appeal. Routinely, however, the justices also engage in what I call “in house” fact-finding. They independently look beyond the briefs and record to answer general questions of fact, and they rely on their discoveries as authorities. To be sure, judges have always done this, and the Federal Rules of Evidence contain no rule restricting it. But times have changed. The world has recently undergone a massive revolution in the way it receives and evaluates information. No longer do justices need to trek to the library to look up factual questions. Instead they can access virtually infinite amounts of factual information at the click of a mouse.
This article discusses how that change in technology has and will affect the Court’s fact-finding practice. It collects over 100 examples of factual authorities relied on in recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that were found “in house” – i.e. that cannot be found in any of the party briefs, amici briefs, or the joint record. These are not insignificant rarities: almost 60% of the most important Court opinions in the last ten years rely on in house research at least once. The article then examines the potential dangers of in house fact finding in the digital age – specifically the possibility of mistake, the systematic introduction of bias, and notice/legitimacy concerns. It concludes that these concerns require an update to our approach to Supreme Court fact finding. It then offers two independent and contrasting solutions: new procedural rules that restrict reliance on factual authorities found in house, or alterations to the adversary method to allow for more public participation.
One of Larsen’s major concerns is that the research conducted by Justices or staff is outside the record of the case. As a reference librarian, I find the concept of a Justice relying on the web for opinion fodder (if I can call it that) interesting. Law schools tend to teach concepts of authority and precedent. When it comes to the web, we have to add site reputation, permanence of the information, the methodology used to collect the information, and other factors that affect the reliability of the web-sourced material. I don’t mean to criticize Human Rights Watch or Justice Kagan for citing the organization’s web site, but it seems implicit that she accepts that information to the point where she is willing to rely on it to support a position. Should we simply accept the information because it is there in the opinion?
When a Justice cites a case or transcript, we know the significance of that citation independent of its use in the case. When it comes to generic information from web sites, we’re not clear on its legal significance until it is used in the context of the opinion. Then again, does the non-legal information help shape the context or vice versa? As thinking about that makes my head hurt, I’ll leave that to someone else to sort out.
Larsen suggests ways in which the practice of web citations could be curtailed, by rule or other methods. I think there is another possible outcome, and that is for counsel to cite information from the web in briefs and arguments. Supreme Court Rule 24.3 states:
3. A brief on the merits may not exceed the word limitations speciﬁed in Rule 33.1(g). An appendix to a brief may include only relevant material, and counsel are cautioned not to include in an appendix arguments or citations that properly belong in the body of the brief.
Relevant material isn’t defined, though I wonder, if a Justice can find a web site useful, why not counsel? It’s all in the strategy, I suppose. Let’s see if law schools teach the web as a source for arguments. [MG]
June 18, 2012
Another day behind the yellow curtain.
Let's face it, legal researchers tend to be neurotic. To the less experienced researcher, there is always a legal answer which exists, and that answer can be found; it can be found by looking into the past, answered in case law. (My supposition is that the casebook method employed in law school belies a large part of the problem. After all, in a law school class, the answers tend to be found within the readings or extrapolated from the readings.) Often there is the inception of a sometimes debilitating idea that if a court in one jurisdiction has held something, a court in my jurisdiction must have held the very same -"the issue must have been raised here if it was raised there. It must exist. It has to!" Every summer, a law student emails or calls me asking me to work my wizardly ways, i.e., find something that does not exist. The request usually comes in one of two forms. The first form of the inquiry usually looks something like this: "I'm looking for the legislative history of a state statute and I can't find anything." On its face, there is nothing really wrong with this request. In fact, I am often pleased to see that a former student remembered that resorting to legislative history is often a valid method to search for legislative intent. More often, however, the student forgets that in certain states (like Tennessee) it is extremely unlikely that any meaningful legislative history exists. (In Tennessee, apart from the bill, the only pieces of legislative history that tends to exist are the actual recordings of floor debates, and this is more often a rare case. And the only way to acquire the statements on the floor is to have a librarian at the Statehouse determine whether any legislative history exists and if so have her send copies of the recordings themselves - never transcripts of the recordings.) I explain this fact to the student every time. The response is often, "But it must exist. Isn't it somewhere on Westlaw?" I sigh. The second form of the request to conjure law from the dust is more unnerving, but the frustration is exacerbated when I failed to conduct a proper reference interview. The form of this request usually begins with, "I need to find a case that says. . . " Again, on its face, there is nothing really problematic about the question. The problem is that what the student means is, "I have searched far and wide to find a case that holds X. I cannot find it but it must exist; otherwise I wouldn' be looking for it." The frustration is exacerabated by the failed reference interview when I later learn what the student means is, "I have searched far and wide to find a case that holds X. I have found numerous cases that have held the opposite of X (perhaps one even decided by the relevant court of last resort in the last couple years) but I need one to say X. It must exist. I know it exists because I need it." Sometimes there is a variation on the situation where the student explains, "The lawyer I am working for says that he knows that holding X exists."(Well, it must exist then. For as soon as one is admitted to practice, one can never err, right?) The termination of many of these conversations often ends in the sound of a defeated law student when they have looked behind the yellow curtain and realized that I am not, in fact, a wizard. There was a time that I tried to teach the lesson that legal researchers are not wizards by giving them a research exercise where the answer does not exist in the way one would expect. It is the Jailbird question, where, in the end, the answer is, "zero." I will create one right here: Between 1803 to 1813, how many lower court decisions were upheld by the State of California's court of last resort? It seems like a somewhat daunting question until you realize that there couldn't be any dispositions affirming lower court decisions in the State of California during that period as California was not yet a state. I stopped asking any such questions as some colleagues though them to be cruel. However, they are not cruel; they merely require critical thinking. And critical thinking must be fostered in law schools. Law students must learn that an answer cannot always be found within the volume of a reporter. And instead of a law student sounding defeated after peering behind the yellow curtain, there should be joy in his voice as the lack of precedent provides for the opportunity to - wait for it - make an original argument. And if no legitimate original argument can be made, then the logical consequences must follow. I hope to one day see the names of these students listed as the attorneys in the cases contained in future reporter volumes, to see them as a part of the great chain of change that is American law. In the meantime, I am more than willing to let them peer behind the yellow curtain to see that I am not the conjuror that they can be.
Let's face it, legal researchers tend to be neurotic. To the less experienced researcher, there is always a legal answer which exists, and that answer can be found; it can be found by looking into the past, answered in case law. (My supposition is that the casebook method employed in law school belies a large part of the problem. After all, in a law school class, the answers tend to be found within the readings or extrapolated from the readings.) Often there is the inception of a sometimes debilitating idea that if a court in one jurisdiction has held something, a court in my jurisdiction must have held the very same -"the issue must have been raised here if it was raised there. It must exist. It has to!"
Every summer, a law student emails or calls me asking me to work my wizardly ways, i.e., find something that does not exist. The request usually comes in one of two forms. The first form of the inquiry usually looks something like this: "I'm looking for the legislative history of a state statute and I can't find anything." On its face, there is nothing really wrong with this request. In fact, I am often pleased to see that a former student remembered that resorting to legislative history is often a valid method to search for legislative intent. More often, however, the student forgets that in certain states (like Tennessee) it is extremely unlikely that any meaningful legislative history exists. (In Tennessee, apart from the bill, the only pieces of legislative history that tends to exist are the actual recordings of floor debates, and this is more often a rare case. And the only way to acquire the statements on the floor is to have a librarian at the Statehouse determine whether any legislative history exists and if so have her send copies of the recordings themselves - never transcripts of the recordings.) I explain this fact to the student every time. The response is often, "But it must exist. Isn't it somewhere on Westlaw?" I sigh.
The second form of the request to conjure law from the dust is more unnerving, but the frustration is exacerbated when I failed to conduct a proper reference interview. The form of this request usually begins with, "I need to find a case that says. . . " Again, on its face, there is nothing really problematic about the question. The problem is that what the student means is, "I have searched far and wide to find a case that holds X. I cannot find it but it must exist; otherwise I wouldn' be looking for it." The frustration is exacerabated by the failed reference interview when I later learn what the student means is, "I have searched far and wide to find a case that holds X. I have found numerous cases that have held the opposite of X (perhaps one even decided by the relevant court of last resort in the last couple years) but I need one to say X. It must exist. I know it exists because I need it." Sometimes there is a variation on the situation where the student explains, "The lawyer I am working for says that he knows that holding X exists."(Well, it must exist then. For as soon as one is admitted to practice, one can never err, right?) The termination of many of these conversations often ends in the sound of a defeated law student when they have looked behind the yellow curtain and realized that I am not, in fact, a wizard.
There was a time that I tried to teach the lesson that legal researchers are not wizards by giving them a research exercise where the answer does not exist in the way one would expect. It is the Jailbird question, where, in the end, the answer is, "zero." I will create one right here:
Between 1803 to 1813, how many lower court decisions were upheld by the State of California's court of last resort?
It seems like a somewhat daunting question until you realize that there couldn't be any dispositions affirming lower court decisions in the State of California during that period as California was not yet a state. I stopped asking any such questions as some colleagues though them to be cruel. However, they are not cruel; they merely require critical thinking.
And critical thinking must be fostered in law schools. Law students must learn that an answer cannot always be found within the volume of a reporter. And instead of a law student sounding defeated after peering behind the yellow curtain, there should be joy in his voice as the lack of precedent provides for the opportunity to - wait for it - make an original argument. And if no legitimate original argument can be made, then the logical consequences must follow.
I hope to one day see the names of these students listed as the attorneys in the cases contained in future reporter volumes, to see them as a part of the great chain of change that is American law. In the meantime, I am more than willing to let them peer behind the yellow curtain to see that I am not the conjuror that they can be.
June 14, 2012
Call for Participation in New Generation of Legal Research Databases Survey: Findings will be reported at AALL Boston 2012
One of the best programs I attended at last year's AALL annual meeting was a well-organized and equally well-prepared panel presentation on WestlawNext. Interest was high. Despite being scheduled for the late afternoon of the last day of Philly 2011 (meaning, of course, the traditional time most attendees are heading home), the program was attended by many law librarians, particularly law firm representatives. No doubt, this year's follow-up program will be just as informative. Emily Marcum, Jean Davis, Jean O'Grady, Susan Nevelow Mart and Vicki Szymczak's The New Generation of Legal Research Databases: 2012 Boston Sequel will take place on Sunday, July 22.
From the description:
This forum will enable librarians familiar with Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis Advance, and WestlawNext to compare the developments of these research tools and consider the effect these changes have had in libraries. The discussion will contrast the latest interfaces of these services to their classic versions, as well as to each other. What worked? What failed? Have these “improvements” changed the workflow at your institution or company? Did these changes impact user preference? And, how can vendors improve future product generations? Practical matters – such as implementation, user education, accuracy of results, document sharing, billing practices, and user satisfaction – will dominate the discussion.
The organizers have launched the following surveys to gather information about Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis Advance, and WestlawNext. The findings will be presented at the Boston Sequel. Many of the questions focus on each library type's different institutional circumstances. They request that the director of each library appoint one person to respond to the applicable survey. The deadline is June 30th.
June 14, 2012 in Academic Law Libraries, Electronic Resource, Firm & Corporate Law Libraries, Government & Public Law Libraries, Legal Research, Library Associations, Meetings, Publishing Industry | Permalink | Comments (0)
June 12, 2012
Adoption Rate Watch: Tracking WestlawNext as an Indicator of Customer Acceptance of the Current Gen Platform Model
WLN Adoption Since Launch
WLN as % of
Westlaw Revenue Base
Being first to the market can be a dream come true or a scary nightmare of lost opportunity. The WestlawNext launch confirmed the old "do the opposite of whatever TR Legal does" rule. Being second to launch has been advantageous for Lexis Advance. See "WestlawNext": What happens when a brand becomes synonymous with the negatives of all similiar products. Whether it will benefit the adoption rate of Lexis Advance remains to be seen. For now, the only indicator of customer sentiment for today's legal search platform model is tracking WestlawNext's adoption rate.
"WestlawNext has been sold to approximately 65% of Westlaw’s revenue base" according to Thomson Reuters Reports First-Quarter 2012 Results (May 2012). No additional information was provided in the Company's 1Q 2012 documentation. In previous quarterly presentations, the Company would identify the number of customers. See table, right. But that factoid isn't as interesting as the consistent omission of reporting the actual revenue being generated solely by the WestlawNext "premium" and related revenue generaton, meaning the investment community has no idea what the return on investment for WestlawNext really is.
About all one can say is that approximately 35% of Westlaw's revenue base has not jumped on the WLN bandwagon. However, note well that if Westlaw subscribers accepted (or insisted upon) WestlawNext with no premium add-on costs to them, their Classic Westlaw spend would be moved to the less than enlightening reporting category of "WestlawNext as a percentage of Westlaw's revenue base." Oh well, David Thomson knows the score.
I'm wondering if David Thomson is also scratching his head. If he was taken in by the Mad Men's marketing pitch for WLN, he has to be wondering why in the parlance of the Mafia, WLN isn't a "good earner" yet. Two years since launch now and WLN hasn't exactly had a psychedelic Purple Orange Haze effect on the market. Of course, Thomson is too smart to be taken in by narco-marketing but you know damn well that the MBA-types dive into their business modeling calculations before anything is given the green light. One very important factor is forecasting when a legacy platform can be killed based on an estimated adoption timeline for the new platform.
Quoting from Interview with Mark Schiff, Vice President of Product Marketing at Thomson Reuters regarding Launch of WestlawNext, The CRIV Sheet, May 2010 at 3 (conducted by Caren Biberman on Feb. 24, 2010):
The long term vision is that there be a single platform, WestlawNext, but there is no date for the retirement of Westlaw.com and Mark believes it will be “years.”
Right, "years" isn't exactly the kind of specificity any business model analysis will spit out; it certainly isn't the sort of forecast any enlightened corporate executive wants to base a $1 billion investment decision on. If drunk on the TRI corporate Kool-Aid, the predication might have been one (1) post-WLN launch multi-year Classic Westlaw license renewal before the remainder of the Westlaw subscriber base would be sufficiently small that they could be PO-ed by having no choice but to take WLN (or switch vendors). Under a worst case scenario, two (2) multi-year Westlaw renewals before all Westlaw revenue can be converted to WLN revenue.
In addition to serious concerns raised about West Search as a reliable search engine by law librarians, cost comparisons are another major issue even if TR Legal would eliminate the WLN "premium." Quoting from the abstract of Emily Marcum's The Quest for Client Savings in Online Research: WestlawNext V. Westlaw Classic (April 3, 2012 draft posted on SSRN; Paper not available to download as of June 12, 2012):
WestlawNext and Classic were each used exclusively in transactional mode for eight days. Cost to the client was assessed using a discount off retail model. Classic was found to be 51.6% cheaper. This difference was so stark that the experiment was terminated early and only two days of each platform in hourly mode was completed. WestlawNext hourly was four times more expensive than Classic, even with fewer minutes used.
I haven't had the opportunity to read the full analysis but the conclusion does dovetail into many law librarians' expectations that West Search's federated search model could ratchet up out-of-plan charges substantially. The same, of course, is true for Lexis Advance but at least one gets a sneak peak at an out-of-plan document first. Clearly a variable cost explosion is not going to increase WLN's adoption rate. Clearly, continued comparisons by legal information professionals where Classic Westlaw bests WestlawNext isn't going to increase the voluntary adoption of WLN. If anything, it might advance the take-it-or-leave-it involuntary adoption proposal as current licenses come up for renewal. The best way to sell WLN is to eliminate comparisons with Classic Westlaw and there is only one way to do that -- kill Classic Westlaw.
While the launch of and sales push for the adoption of full-text online legal database search services produced some Luddite reactions in the professional literature 30-plus years ago, that is not the case now. Today's law librarians are tech savvy and cost conscious. Out-of-plan licenses have increasing become the exception, not the norm, in the private sector. A study like Marcum's will only do one thing, namely, increase the march to in-plan only WLN licenses.
There is no doubt in my mind that despite all of the new platform's faults, WLN's adoption rate would be higher than it is today if Thomson Reuters had not applied its 20th century database selection in-plan/out-of-plan licensing scheme to its 21st century West Search federated search engine. One per seat flat rate price for the entire database universe is the only model that makes sense if a federated search engine is going to be the major selling point for current gen search platforms. The same, of course, is also true for Lexis Advance. But I seriously doubt WEXIS will ever consider going that route.
Now, if BLaw grabs and keeps more than a 15% share of the legal search market in the private sector, WEXIS business modelers may start crunching the numbers. Despite BLaw marketing, flat rate pricing is the norm but per seat flat rate for a vendor's entire database universe is not. At least, not yet. [JH]
June 10, 2012
"Imagine a search engine that simply removed the top 1 million most popular web sites from its index. What would you discover?"
Hat tip to Slaw's Omar Ha-Redeye for calling attention to Million Short, a new search engine created by Sanjay Arora. Arora created what he calls "a discovery engine" late one Sunday evening! In The Anti-Google Search Engine, Ha-Redeye writes
The premise behind the site is that it actually removes the most popular sites from search results (top sites are removed, not necessarily the top web results). You can adjust it to remove the top million sites, all the way down to the top one hundred most popular sites online. The rationale is that many of the spammy websites that try to game Google are automatically excluded, potentially providing a more robust and insightful result. ... For legal researchers this could help unearth a treasure trove of more obscure legal web sites with legal commentary or case summaries that would be excluded in either high profile cases or in subject areas where there is a lot of competing but irrelevant information.
June 06, 2012
Penetrating the Once Impenetrable WEXIS Market: Fastcase's Android App for Legal Research as an Illustration
I don't know how many of Fastcase's 500,000 paid subscribers use Android devices but those who do now can use Fastcase's legal research app built for the Android OS. Yesterday, the Company announced the launch of the first legal research app for Android phones and tablets here. The app also may attract cost conscious practitioners who have not jumped on the iPhone-iPad bandwagon to Fastcase. Smart move.
Fastcase CEO Ed Walters was quoted in a paidContent article published the day before the Android app roll-out (no, not about the app per se). A snip:
Today, digital technology is letting Bloomberg Law scan and sort a vast pool of law that would once have taken decades to assemble. But while its tools rival those of the incumbents [WEXIS], there is also a bigger question of whether the industry’s underlying business model is still viable.
That business model is based on charging lawyers enormous money to access a tightly controlled pool of information is still viable. It is also highly labor-intensive. Fastcase’s Walters described practices like Westlaw’s technique of reading and annotating cases as a “relic, an anachronism from the age of print … they’re acting as if search engines never existed.”
Fastcase’s own model relies on using algorithms to rapidly sort cases and track precedents. The company sells retail subscriptions for $95 a month and also offers bulk memberships to state bar associations.
Companies like Fastcase are far from displacing the giants, but they do illustrate how technology is allowing not just Bloomberg but upstarts to challenge a once impenetrable market. At the same time, Google and the Cornell-based non-profit Legal Information Institute are making stacks of cases, patent histories and more available for free.
(Emphasis added.) For more, see Jeff John Roberts' Bloomberg’s big bite for billions of legal dollars (June 4, 2012).
Once WEXIS "owned" virtually 100% of the commercial legal search market. It is quite possible their combined market share will be reduced to 50-60% with BLaw, Fastcase and other search providers grabbing the rest of the market from them. [JH]
May 31, 2012
No Business Model Required: Following the latest "Google" example for very expensive online legal search?
The problem with very expensive legal search vendors going Lady Gaga over Google because "our customers wanted it" is that Goggle and its competitors like Bing aren't static. They keep adding new feature that WEXIS "customers" also may want. Take for example Google's Knowledge Graph and Bing's Snaphot displays that now accompany search output in the white space to the right of the list of results.
David Pogue's Going Beyond Search, Into Fetch reviews those new features. He notes that Google's Knowledge Graph will display info snips with links from the Graph's database that contains summaries of 500 million entries. Today's WEXIS SEs are supposed to be smart enough to do that already and yesterday's SEs did "plus" research results in sidebar displays but that doesn't mean users won't want this sort of display feature "because Google has it."
However, Pogue also notes that Microsoft's Snapshot display tends to focus on displaying opportunities to spend money. Lexis Advance already provides a sneak peak at out-of-plan output but how did the West Search folks in the Land of 10,000 Invoices not come up with the idea of using search to sell ProView titles since ProView is used to increase WLN adoption rates.
Think of the "Buy Now" ProView eBook sales opportunities in a right sidebar display of WLN search results. Heck, I'm thinking that since a user is already logged into WLN under the OnePassYourAss account scheme, what could be easier for potentially enhancing the recurring revenue stream. No business modeling of this idea is required.
Time to launch the video TR Legal marketing puppet masters may close their powerpoint presentation that explains what's the next next for WestlawNext to West Search geeks. There will be dancing in the conference room. [JH]
May 24, 2012
The Marketing Gurus Have Taken Hold of Lexis Advance
If one wants to be in a generous spirit, the ad implies that LA's SE is so good you won't be confronted with contrary legal authorities produced by someone else that is going to require additional research. Alternatively, it implies LA's SE is so good, its search output won't require follow-up searching because the initial results will hit the nail on the head.
Any experienced practitioner knows both are dead wrong. No SE will ever produce that good a "sleep well" search experience because "real world" searching is interested, not disinterested, searching. It's the arguments made and the transactions crafted by opposing parties which is the end result of legal research. Legal research is a means to an end and that end is interpreting materials in the most favorable light. Those interpretations oftentimes require re-searching.
In a less generous spirt, not having to perform follow-up topical searching for the research assignment at hand is just a myth. Remember the WLN video which promoted the truly asinine storyline that WLN is going to find you that one document,which answers all needs. Finding this sort of holy grail of legal research hardly ever happens and WLN's West Search hasn't been making it happen more often.
I guess that when vendors develop new SEs, they just can't restrain themselves from crafting epic myths about them as the selling point for their new platforms. This may be the story WEXIS marketing gurus want to tell but how much "real world" legal research experience do you think these Mad Men have? [JH]
May 18, 2012
"Seamless Combination of Legal Research and Business Information, Unlimited Access and Transparent Pricing Provide Value to Modern Legal Practice"
Ah ... OK.
In looking at some of the job descriptions from previous Jones Day positions, they do ask that applicants be proficient in both Lexis and Westlaw research, so they do appear to have both services at the time of bringing in Bloomberg. It would be unusual for a firm (even one as big as Jones Day) to keep three legal research tools on the budget, so we'll have to see if they end up dropping one of the current resources.
Nice touch Gregster! That's a quote from Greg Lambert's post. The title is context self-explanatory -- Another Notch In Bloomberg's Belt: Jones Day. ("Those that I've talked to find it interesting that there is no quote from Jones Day representatives in this press release.") This is a notch in BLaw's belt at the very high end of the private sector food chain. A post-DLA Piper BigLaw adoption announcement has, however, taken longer than what was expected. Details about publicized BigLaw adoption Number 2 to follow, maybe -- check 3 Geeks. But I'm thinking it will be unlikely that additional informaton will address the matter re: how come it took so long? Perhaps BLaw's PR staff finally just give up trying to get a quote from someone, anyone, at Jones Day.
More important questions to observers, like WEXIS, are:
- When will BLaw achieve its 15% market share objective?
- Will BLaw be successful in keeping that share under the Company's known 5-year license terms with opt-out after year 2 or year 4 before per seat costs approach the retail rack rate in year 5?
- How many BigLaw firms will opt out based on usage data and opt back into BLaw's separate BNA resources centers?
- Will BLaw jack up the pricing for BNA resource centers to make them so cost prohibitive that sticking to the "plan" aka the BLaw K ends up being the the only real choice for BLaw-BNA content?
More fundamental and much more interesting questions pertain to the customer base: (1) solo provider? or (2) primary provider with a secondary provider, perhaps for a smaller user population? or (3) multiple providers selected on the basis of in-plan practice area resources at a flat rate for smaller user populations?
Those questions do not dwell in the seeded soil of the Six Sigma-ed planned garden of incrementalism. They reside in the ethereal realm of commercial prophecy. Nothing seemless, nothing transparent, but unlimited access to change or be changed there. [JH]
May 16, 2012
Now You See It, Now You Don't, Part II: The Coming Vaporization of Classic WEXIS
In Part I of this series, I mentioned that in the commercial space for caselaw research Fastcase's SE is competitive. A very strong case can be made that under the New Normal, Fastcase is the "smarter alternative." The argument, however, would not be based on the algorithm. It is a smarter alternative because the Company provides sufficient information for professional legal researchers (ah, that would be us) to understand how the SE works in the context of the Fastcase platform so we can assist our institutional user populations.
Fastcase does that by a number of means but the means I like best are video tutorials created by professional legal researchers (you know, us) who are not employees of Fastcase. See Fresh Batch of Fastcase Video Tutorials Courtesy of the Jenkins Law Library (Fastcase blog post, Oct. 2011(?)). From Creating Video Tutorials of Today's Online Search Services: The example of Fastcase endorsing best practice videos authored by law librarians (Nov. 7, 2011):
I'm thinking the folks at WestlawNext, Lexis Advance, Bloomberg Law and IntelliConnect might learn something about providing law librarian created video tutorials of their very expensive online legal search services that are not tainted by their marketing departments. My hunch is there are law librarians "out there" willing to do this for free (except for waiver of any search charges) to help fill in the huge gaping hole in reliable instructional materials for those new search services.
The vaporization of Classic WEXIS is coming. We all know that. So far, I have not seen one shred of evidence from either vendor that they realize when it comes to their new SEs the only competitive advantage lies in whichever vendor is the first to provide detailed information about how their SE really works because search engines do not sell online legal search service. Selling the "sizzle" has produced less than stellar adoption rates for WLN's premium priced butt steak. Butt steaks can be a tender piece of meat if cooked properly. That, however, may require more imagination than practitioners of Six Sigma culinary arts have.
To date, all print and video instructional materials I have seen produced by New WEXIS are providing a less than fulfilling UserX training experience. (I initially wrote "are crap;" not a bad food-for-the-mind metaphor.) The consequence --
From the "UserX: Then & Now, The New Normal of WEXIS Online Legal Search" introduction I will be giving at our Lexis Advance training session to my Lexis users by my Lexis account rep later this week. At least I gave my account rep a heads-up by providing the complete stack to her a week in advance.
No WLN training session on the horizon unless all my Classic Westlaw account holders get WLN free for the duration of our current license like right now, just like Lexis provides for Lexis Advance. No level playing field if Thomson Reuters doesn't do this; advantage goes to Lexis Advance. The alternative, perhaps I can obtain free access to Lexis Advance for my Classic Westlaw users soon.
"Free" is a very good business tactic when rolling out a New Normal research platform if a vendor wants to retain current and extend user populations to move beyond the 1:1 ratio. It is no coincidence that my WEXIS licenses come up for renewal right about the same time. While I don't know when either WEXIS vendor intends to vaporize their classic services, I doubt I will have the opportunity to renew (read renegotiate) more than one more multi-year license before hearing Old WEXIS has been vaporized.
I've been in the business of full-text legal database researching since 1980. I've seen my share of WEXIS changes but I have never in my career seen WEXIS make as huge a collective goof as this one. Classic WEXIS users typically were averse to changing from one service to the other in no small part because they knew how to use their familiar platform -- from the interface generally to knowing how to find their databases before performing a search and how to modify their searches when poor results were produced. There was enough of a difference between services that users did not want to remove their protective snuggy.
The gain-loss ratio for licenses approaches 1:1 for Classic WEXIS; lose one client, acquire a new client. Because "customers wanted it" (meaning because WEXIS wanted to improve the 1:1 ratio to their own advantage), both vendors crafted the Google-inspired "search first, then filter by displayed options" for the now normal New WEXIS platform. But what did this collective WEXIS mindset really produce? My presentation's last slide:
By "and tools matters," I do not mean search engines but I do include instructional materials. "Editorial" means produced by intelligent human beings with demonstrated expertise in the law. It also means demonstrated expertise in legal research that extends well beyond the myopic world of the vendor's product line. [JH]
May 15, 2012
Now You See It, Now You Don't, Part I: Free Legal Research Services on the Web
In the early days of free caselaw research services, it seemed like new search services were popping up all over the web. But without strong financial support, many disappeared almost as quickly as they had appeared.
One of my favorites for caselaw research was PreCYdent because it provided IMHO "one of the most innovative SE algorithms offered for a free, fee-based, or a very expensive licensed legal search experience." Quoting from PreCYdent: 2006 - 2009 (Jan. 28, 2010); see also, Law Prof as Toolmaker: An Interview with PreCYdent's Thomas A. Smith (Jan. 29, 2008). But PreCYdent's funding dried up and it became "history."
PreCYdent was really a demonstration project. To the best of my knowledge, no commercial enterprise stepped up to the plate to license the search engine. For PreCYdent, WEXIS was already too late because both companies were working on their new SE algorithms. The PreCYdent SE, however, would still be a competitive alternative to WLN and Lexis Advance SEs for caselaw research. At least in the commercial space, Fastcase's SE is competitive. (Why? See Part II of this series tomorrow.)
So, what's left and by "left" I mean free online legal search services that will likely remain available awhile longer because they are financially supported. Only three come to mind and one of them has been, well, see Greg Lambert's As LexisOne Goes Dark, Fastcase's PLoL Comes Back To Life on 3 Geeks (April 13, 2012).
- Google Scholar for Legal Opinions and Journals (supported by, well you know);
- Public Library of Law (supported by Fastcase); and
- the semi-"useful" FindACase (supported by VersusLaw).
The rest of the few once-supported (read reliable) free services as annotated in the above screen capture from a section of our little county law library's caselaw research guide (click to enlarge) are "gone" or "long gone."
Endnote. For free federal and state statutory and regulartory online resources, Cornell LII just keeps getting better and better. See for example, LII's U.S. Code More Current Than Ever with New USC-prelim Feature and LII Releases Online Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). [JH]
May 09, 2012
ProQuest Launches Udini for the Independent Reseacher
ProQuest is launching an inventive new research service that provides individuals with access to premium content and cutting edge tools. Instant and on-demand, Udini™ bundles an extraordinary range of information, including peer-reviewed and trade journal articles, dissertations, international newswires, newspapers, magazines and more from thousands of publishers in a comprehensive cloud-based workflow management tool designed for individual users. For knowledge workers without access to research libraries, Udini™ provides unprecedented ease for finding and using the highest quality information for professional projects. For publishers with already-strong academic distribution, Udini™ opens a trusted and compelling new channel to reach an under-served group of users who want and need their content.
Udini™ serves growing ranks of independent researchers, from freelancers, to workers in organizations without their own libraries, to unaffiliated authors. These users can search and then add desired content to the Udini™ cloud-based project organization and management tool, which also welcomes information from personal libraries and the open web, enabling them to capture their projects' whole research file in one always-accessible space. All content types share an easy-to-read display that allows note taking and highlighting. Purchase plans are flexible -- by the article, by the month or by the project -- and some content is free. There's no cost to use or store projects in Udini™.
For an overview, see Laura Hazard Owen's ProQuest's Udini is a cloud-based research tool for regular people on paidContent. [JH]
May 04, 2012
Shed West Era Photo Wins AALL's Day in the Life Contest (and a call for more empty stacks photos)
The winner in the Best Overall Photo category is "I Wonder What it was Like to 'Shelve a Book.'" Taken by Rita Kaiser, the caption reads "Yumi Blackwell, associate research librarian, evaluates the library's choices to use the shelves now that we access the reporters electronically." Congratulations to all award winners in this year's AALL Day in the Life Photo Contest.
3 Geekster Greg Lambert recently issued a call on AALL lists for empty stacks photos.
I'm thinking of writing on the topic of "never have our shelves been so empty, yet our collections so large" and wanted to build a collage of empty shelving.
Sounds interesting Gregster.
I would need an uber wide-angle lens for my camera to contribute a photo showing over 4,000 linear feet of empty shelving in our little county law library. That's 113,000 pounds of print sent to the recycling center, folks. Law reviews plus West reporters, annotated codes from the more expensive of the two publishers (I think you know which one that is) as well as antiquated West reference works and tools that once provided dependable recurring revenue generating high profits from print for Thomson Reuter's cash cow are history. Legal encyclopedias, digests, and massive form sets that were being priced out of existence anyway at least provided our County with some recycling credit because that's all they were worth in the free-to-a-good-home market.
Some 50% of US law libraries expect that the space allocated to their library will decrease in three years time according to Law Library Benchmarks, 2012-13 Ed. Clearly that means more empty shelving and more print sent to recycling centers. It also means substituting electronic resources for print ones but as law librarians continue to evaluate their collections, my hunch is many will find in their circulation and database usage statiscial analysis that the "infrequently used" resource will be eliminated. Low usage simply does not the justify the expense. Being able to provide resources to answer every research question is being replaced in those few law libraries that still attempt to do that with being able to answer the usual sorts of questions asked.
Watch for the trend to eliminate out-of-plan licensing without adding lightly used out-of-plan resources to in-plan only licenses to escalate. In addition to the Shed West Era in print, private and public sector institutional buyers are well into the Flat Rate Online Legal Search Era; it's not like BLaw is really offering anything new.
Alas, under the next gen current gen search platforms, screen captures of online database menu options won't be submitted for some future AALL Day in the Life photo contest with a "This is all my users need" caption. [JH]
May 03, 2012
Westlaw To End Free Printing For Law Schools
News is bubbling through law school and library forums that West will discontinue free law school printing effective June 30, 2013. I assume that includes faculty printing. Law schools can keep the printers and fund them if they wanted to, but Westlaw IDs would be tied to them only through June 30, 2014. When I wrote about Bloomberg Law's push into law schools, I said Bloomberg had no plans to include free printing as part of the deal. I didn't think it made any difference to the acceptance of Bloomberg in law schools given that it was essentially going to be free. See that post for more details.
Free Westlaw printing, as with Lexis, had been part of the law school package since the early days of their law school presence. I don't know if Bloomberg's plan had triggered any soul searching in the Eagan executive offices, but it might have in the accounting offices. I expect the folks in Dayton will be thinking about this as well. My impression developed at the various schools in which I worked is that students print a lot and use a little of that printing. We often say we want students to develop good research habits. Printing is part of that, I think, and students will be a bit more careful of what they commit to paper if they have to pay for it. The alternative, of course, is storing that research on the system or another device.
I haven't heard if there are further cuts planned. I would think there would be less need to have Westlaw student reps since there wouldn't be a need to monitor dedicated printers. It's the end of an era, I guess. [MG]
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]
April 19, 2012
Meet Microsoft Academic Search, Redmond's Quiet Answer to Google Scholar
Did anyone know that Microsoft has an alternative to Google Scholar? I didn’t either until I stumbled across it a little while back. Welcome to Microsoft Academic Search. As of today, it invites one to explore 38,835,423 publications, 19,159,815 authors with 1,587 updates from last week alone. That, out of context, sounds impressive. Search the phrase “critical race theory” in MS Academic Search and a very well laid out screen returns a list of 178 publications. A comparable Google Scholar search brings up 19,400 hits, not that I as a researcher would explore so many. One of the reasons Microsoft lags in results is that it does not index legal publications much. The site boasts a list of domains which are information subject concentrations. Social science exists but law or legal is not covered.
The citation list in MS Academic Search brings up hits with links to a source for the article, if available. The initial list does not provide any snippet views of the article content. However, clicking on the title will lead to a graphical view of citations, where available, and a snippet view of citations to the main article. The graph indicates the yearly citation trend in lines covering the number of citing publications and the number of citations to the main article. The listed citations below the graph are clickable to reveal abstracts of these citing articles with links to full text, again, where available. There is an export button allowing one to download an article citation in a standard bibliographic format as well.
I can’t say that MS Academic Search is less valuable than Google Scholar merely in terms of the comparable number of citations returned. I think Google Scholar’s real advantage is that the snippet view of search terms on the initial screens is more useful in determining whether a hit is worth exploring. Microsoft seems to rely strictly on the title as a signal for relevancy. On the other hand, the interactive qualities of the site run rings around what Google provides in its take it or leave it display of results.
I’d advise checking out the site. The help screen gives a lot of detail as to the capabilities of Academic Search. The site has been around since December of 2009, which shows the non-existent marketing push Microsoft has made promoting it. Google could learn a thing or two from the presentation and manipulation of results. The lack of legal periodical coverage is a distinct disadvantage for law reference work. It may still have value as a resource nonetheless. Microsoft did blatantly copy one Google feature. The site is listed as “Beta.” [MG]
April 12, 2012
Compete to Win the First Dewey B Strategic Legal Research Genius Award
By entering the Dewey B Strategic research crossword challenge! [JH]
April 11, 2012
Lately We've Seen Some Criticism of Bloomberg Law by an Anonymous Author over at 3 Greeks. Any Response to that?
The title of this post is a take-off from an interview question to TR Legal's Mike Dahn in the context of a two-part LLB anonymous post published on LLB titled The WestSearch Straitjacket For Legal Research - Thinking Beyond The Keyword, Part 1 and Part 2. Dahn's response to the question, "Lately we’ve seen a very lengthy criticism of WestlawNext by an anonymous author over at LLB. Any response to that?" can be accessed from TR Legal's Mike Dahn on WestlawNext, WestSearch, and Haters: Part 2. About all I'll say about that is it sounded like a vendor Kool-Aid drunk response.
Now comes an anonymous post published on 3 Geeks titled Bloomberg Law – Same Kool-Aid, Different Flavor (recommended). Like the 3 Geeks editorial note, when I decided to publish the WestlawNext posts, "the writer asked to remain anonymous. Quite frankly, this wasn't the first time I heard someone voice this opinion... ."
In the BLaw case, the 3 Geeks editor adds
so let us know if you think they are on-point with this post, or if you think Bloomberg Law isn't just a different flavor of Kool-Aid.
Will we hear a Kool-Aid drunk response from BLaw? BLaw is targeting adoption at the high end of private sector market. Based on its multi-year licensing structure, deep discounting is available at the beginning of a 5-year license. However, that license calls for incremental annual increases along with the option to cancel at the end of Year 2 and Year 4 for US attorney firm-wide access,
I seriously doubt that BLaw's adoption rate will be all that high on a firm-wide basis under this pricing and licensing structure over the long term. Ultimate pricing reaches the current per-seat monthly retail rate. If BLaw is not widely used, BigLaw firms aren't likely to pay the $450 flat rate per month per seat for a firm wide user population that numbers 500-750-1,000. There is a distinct possiblility that many BigLaw firms will opt out of their firm-wide BLaw licenses, perhaps opting in for a subset for their most frequent users of BLaw content and/or migrating to either topical Bloomberg BNA resources libraries or IntelliConnect selections for specialized practice area online database services.
There is nothing "new" about flat rate pricing. As noted in the 3 Geeks post, BLaw's flat rate licensing isn't really revolutionary. Any BigLaw firm can negotiate a flat rate WEXIS license for all or some of their users by way of in-plan only licenses after evaluating WEXIS database usage data. Institutional buyers may very well end up with mutiple providers of narrow in-plan licenses instead of a primary or solo providers of expensive online legal search. Factoring into such decisions will be editorial quality of databased secondary sources, productivity solutions and enhanced law eBook offerings.
Today's search engines are not a selling point. Next gen Current gen metadata-ed search engines are not likely to be much of a selling point for any vendor from an institutional buyer's perspective. If anything, the great unknowing of how these SEs really work will play against the vendors unless they disclose sufficient proprietary SE information to users so they won't be performing research in the dark. The federated search with filtering options model is the established norm now. Competition among very expensive legal search vendors will remind us of the bygone days of "tab and sidebar" wars by way of add-on functionality tweaks. [JH]