Monthly Archives: January 2010

“Hey! You Sunk My Battleship!”: Another Article about New Platforms for Legal Research

The ABA Journal is predicting a “battle” will soon be breaking out on a computer screen near you. This article has screen shots of both WestlawNext (which seems to be the official new name) and New Lexis, and also includes a discussion of Bloomberg Law, FastCase and Google Scholar.

A battle like this makes me think of the game Battleship, so let’s place our pieces on the grid.  Westlaw and Lexis are the “aircraft carriers” worth 5 points each. They have so much ammunition, its hard to conceive of bringing either one down.

Bloomberg Law strikes me as a “submarine” worth three points. They have been stealthy thus far, and very little is known about them. What are their true intentions? Are they really in it for the long-term?

FastCase is a “patrol boat” worth two points. They scoot around the periphery, taking pot shots at the big guys. Believe it or not, they’ve been around for 10 years. Is their business sustainable in this new environment?

To me, Google Scholar could be a “destroyer” worth three points or another “patrol boat” worth only two. Google demands attention, since it is the place that most attorneys start their research anyway, now it just has better content. Will the new content make Google an even more viable choice?

What an exciting time to be involved in legal research! I look forward to the next few months, when we will learn more and more about the new Westlaw and Lexis platforms.

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New Versions of Westlaw and Lexis Mentioned in the New York Times

There has been much buzz over the last year around ‘new’ versions of Westlaw and Lexis. How big are these changes? Pretty big, considering the New York Times published an article on the subject yesterday.

Some interesting tidbits from the article:

  • Westlaw will introduce its changes on Feb. 1; LexisNexis has yet to specify a date.
  • Mike Dahn, vice president for product development at WestlawNext, said it took the company five years to build the new system.
  • WestlawNext service has a revamped search system that allows lawyers to type in general requests, as they might on Google, rather than their typical narrow searches.
  • In a few weeks, LexisNexis will announce a revamped interface as well and show off a suite of collaboration tools that let lawyers share and work on documents together, said Michael Walsh, the head of United States legal markets for LexisNexis.

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LexisNexis Survey: State of the Legal Industry

Earlier this month, LexisNexis released a new survey designed “to generate insights and identify trends about the future of the legal business model.” Incorporating views and opinions from lawyers, corporate counsel and law students, the survey demonstrates that perceptions about the economy are very different depending on your perspective.

Overall the study sought to:

•Gather lawyers’  and students’ perceptions of the current state of the U.S. legal industry

•Understand lawyers’ beliefs about what the future holds for American law firms and legal professionals

•Gauge law students’ attitudes toward entering the legal profession in today’s economy

The Executive Summary:

The national survey, commissioned by LexisNexis, is the first of its depth and breadth to be conducted on the legal industry since the start of the economic crisis. Of the 550 respondents polled, 300 were private practice attorneys,150 were in-house corporate counsel and 100 were law school students.

Corporate counsel say law firms are not doing enough to respond to the economic downturn

•71% of corporate counsel responded that law firms today are not doing enough to respond to the current financial pressures on their business model

•Almost half the in-house counsel polled (46%) say they have requested rate cuts, yet less than one in five (18%) private practice attorneys say their law firms have reduced bill rates

•Only 38% of corporate counsel believe that law firms are being responsive on changing fees and costs given the current economic recession

•69% of corporate counsel have shifted work in-house since the start of the economic downturn; 56% have reduced spend on outside counsel

Private practice attorneys say clients are too focused on costs, at the expense of quality and results

•Over half of corporate counsel surveyed (58%) say they believe law firms are too profitable; however, most private practice attorneys (77%) believe their clients are too focused on reducing costs, at the expense of quality and long-term results

•According to the survey, private practice attorneys say their firms have taken a number of steps in 2009 to respond to the changed economic climate: 43% have conducted layoffs; 41% say their firms have offered alternative fee arrangements; 33% have implemented hiring freezes; 29% have deferred start dates; and 26% have reduced salaries since the start of the economic downturn

Opinions are split on the future of the legal industry

•53% of corporate counsel and 52% of private practice attorneys believe the recession will permanently change the way business is done in the legal industry

•57% of corporate counsel believe the billable hour will give way to alternative billing arrangements

•More than half of corporate counsel responded that they will shift work in-house (57%) and reduce the amount of their total spend on outside counsel (55%) in 2010

•When asked what actions their law firm is most likely to take in 2010, the top two responses among private practice attorneys were: conduct layoffs (18%) and defer start dates for new hires (18%)

The next generation of lawyers feel ill-equipped for the business of the law; many areconsidering alternatives to a career in law

•According to the survey, 65% of law school students (and 90% of lawyers) said that law school does not teach the practical business skills needed to practice law in today‟s economy •35% of law school students responded that they do not feel adequately prepared to succeed in the changing legal marketplace

•One fifth (21%) of students say they regret attending law school

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