I stumbled across this article on CNN while recently browsing the headlines. This is part of their ‘heroes’ series, and it was a great reminder of how glad I am for all the books and information that I had access to as a child.
How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862), Walden
Thomson Reuters posts its fourth-quarter and full-year results today, and seemed practically unaffected by the global economy. Read the entire press release here. Highlights from the legal division:
- Full-year revenues were flat as strong growth from FindLaw (up 13%) and subscription-related products (up 6%) were offset by a 5% decline in print and a 13% decline in non-subscription products.
- Full-year operating profit declined 3% and the corresponding margin declined 60 basis points to 32.2%. Savings from efficiency initiatives and tight cost controls were not enough to offset flow-through on flat revenues, revenue mix and investments in growth initiatives.
- Fourth-quarter revenues declined 3% as growth from subscription-related products (up 4%) and FindLaw (up 9%) was offset by declines of 13% in print and 14% in non-subscription products.
- Fourth-quarter operating profit declined 10% and the associated margin was 29.7% versus 32.6% in the prior-year period. Lower revenues, particularly from profitable print and non-subscription products, as well as the impact of foreign exchange, more than offset efficiency savings.
Great post over at Social Media Law Student by law student Laura Bergus. Laura got access to WestlawNext, and took it for a test run. Here are the results of her testing:
First, she tried the current version of Westlaw.
- Using a natural language search for “wrongful discharge public policy exception,” in the OK-CS database in the current Westlaw the key case (Burk v. K-Mart Corp, 770 P.2d 24) came up ninth on the list.
- Using a terms and connectors search of (wrong! & discharg!) & (“public policy” /s except!) in the same database, the most-recent-on-top results put the case I needed at 59 out of 69…
Next she tried Google Scholar:
- I plugged my “wrongful discharge public policy exception” search into Google Scholar (having selected only Oklahoma cases), and Burk v. K-Mart was #1.
Finally, she tried WestlawNext:
- Now, WestlawNext has a single search box. There you plug in whatever you want: a terms and connectors search, natural language search, case citation, database name, party names, you get the idea. Putting my same natural language query here, WestlawNext delivered by top case right on top. Finally!
Laura also offers some extremely valuable advice to law students, heck…her advice really applies to any legal researcher (all emphasis is mine):
Listen to the professionals (especially your legal librarians) who tell you what is important in legal research. Know how to connect the dots so you can get results when they aren’t all handed to you in a filterable, searchable, savable, instantly-available format. Get as good as you can using free legal research tools, and be as fearless as possible about learning new things. WestlawNext is a good indicator that certain useful aspects of search and research are becoming standardized, but the paywall between you and easy access as a professional is still high and strong. If you haven’t yet, make good friends with the internet to at least bolster your Wexis searches.
Reed Elsevier, parent company of LexisNexis, announced 2009 full-year results late last week. Results from the press release:
LexisNexis (42% of adjusted operating profits)
- Revenue growth +14%, adjusted operating profit +13%, at constant currency, including full year contribution of ChoicePoint acquisition
- Core law firm markets flat in US and marginally lower internationally reflecting downturn in legal services industry
- US directory listings well behind prior year; corporate, government and academic markets lower
- Risk Solutions sees strong growth in Insurance and Government markets but decline in other markets; profits grow strongly
The outlook for LexisNexis:
- Trends in US legal and international markets are expected to continue, reflecting pressures on the legal industry and late cycle effects on subscription revenues. Good growth is continuing in the insurance segment in Risk Solutions. Adjusted operating margin is expected to be lower, reflecting a weak revenue environment and increasing product, marketing and infrastructure spend in the legal businesses, partially mitigated by continuing cost actions and the growing profitability of the ChoicePoint business.
The press release can be found here, and a detailed analysis can be found on the Law Librarian Blog.
From Interactive Investor:
Reed’s earnings are likely to show the company has felt the sharp sting of the recent dollar weakness, given that dollar earnings account for a hefty proportion of the company’s business. It was forced to streamline its operations in reaction to the recession, but experienced some difficulty in offloading its assets.
Thursday’s results should offer up some indication of how newly-appointed chief executive Erik Engstrom expects to tackle 2010.
Paul Richards of Numis Corp said: “We are cautious ahead of the update, and expect that late-cycle pressure will persist across the group’s subscription businesses. We note recent press speculation that the group will announce heavy investment in its Legal division, which has fallen behind Thomson Reuter’s Westlaw, in addition to the suggestion that the group will exit both Exhibitions and RBI to pay down debt.”
I traveled to Milwaukee this week to speak to a group of librarians on the topic of law library management and today’s reality. The presentation I put together is a summary of my experiences as a consultant, librarian and vendor, covering such topics as the role of the librarian, the library as a business unit, preferred vendor, management tools and more.
What a great group and a wonderfully interactive session we had together!
If you are looking for a speaker for your next meeting or conference, please contact Cable&Clark.
Great post about the timing of the new versions of Westlaw and Lexis at Legal Practice Pro. This is what caught my eye:
- “But the giants got fat and sleepy, as they often do. Their pricing became their burden, their staffing and infrastructure made them sluggish. Rather than take the innovations of the technology and provide a better product at a better price, they kept using the door-to-door salesman and blast email approach to rope us into long-term contracts at sky-high fees.“
I could not agree more. As many of you know, the pricing and sales structures at both companies have not changed one iota over the years. Additionally, as Jay points out, their own pricing and justifications for that pricing have created an unsustainable model, but one in which they continue to use. Let’s hope that the new versions of Westlaw and Lexis also come with revolutionary pricing and sales.
- “While the titans took a nap, something happened. Courts started coming online, and so did law reviews and other scholarly journals. We moved into a truer electronic age, one that provided an incentive to digitizing documents.“
The Big Two have never worried about free or low cost competitors, their value lies in not just digitizing documents, but also adding commentary, annotations or a taxonomy. Is this enough to justify the high costs in today’s world? I’m not sure that the answer is the same for everyone, but it’s certainly even more relevant now.
- “Lexis decided to integrate search and other tools directly within Word and Outlook. Westlaw cleaned up their interface to make it more Google-like. There’s no new content, nothing remarkably new, and no recognition that these services are both providing more of a fungible commodity than ever before.“
While I do agree that there is no new content (what more could there possibly be?), the change to Westlaw is in the search algorithm. Content isn’t the issue today, it’s retrieval, and not just any retrieval…relevant retrieval. If content and search functionality was all you needed, Westlaw and Lexis would most definitely be out of business, but the legal profession requires more. The question remains, however, does this justify the costs and if so, what cost?
I’ve written about librarian heroes several times in the past, such as here. But now a new book is out that takes the reader deep into our world and demonstrates that librarians “are FIERCE” (per a reviewer on Amazon). I’ve already got my copy downloaded on my Kindle, and I’ll post a review as soon as I’m done reading it (in the middle of The Count of Monte Cristo right now).