In a response to the video posted on the Legal Currents blog (see previous post), Bob has further clarified the context of his comments, and elaborated on his position on the SLAW blog. Here are some highlights:
- When I referred to those who are devoted to making the law freely available to everyone as heroes, I meant it. My remarks were not intended to be dismissive. They were informal, unscripted and glib, but not dismissive. But I do not think that the free systems will challenge the proprietary ones in the United States as the centers of legal research for lawyers in the foreseeable future.
- Certain research sources become accepted as reliable. Professional researchers trust them. The users do not question them cricially, they just rely on them. Think of Shepards Citators in the old days or the amalgam of official print reports of judicial opinions and the National Reporter System in print that ruled in the latter part of the 20th Century.
- The day may come when the free systems will combine with sophisticated search engines and become that elusive “Tinkerbell” being granted status as an authority that is implicitly relied upon without question. But that day is not yet here. The free sites have value and I truly admire those who work to make them a reality.
Highlights on overall information from Associated Press:
- Third-quarter net income tumbled 60 percent from a year ago, as revenue in its legal and market divisions fell.
- The company earned $162 million, or 19 cents per share, in the three months ended Sept. 30. That’s down from $404 million, or 49 cents per share, a year earlier.
- Earnings slipped to 43 cents per share from 47 cents a share a year ago. Analysts had expected 40 cents per share.
- Revenue declined 4 percent to $3.22 billion, in part because of unfavorable foreign exchange rates.
Specifically regarding Legal from the Thomson Reuters Press Release:
- Revenues were down 1%. Solid growth in subscription businesses led by Westlaw, Find Law and international units was offset by continued weakness in non-subscription services including Print, Ancillary, Enterprise software, Consulting Services and Trademarks. As in the second quarter, small law firms and government units were the fastest growing customer segments.
- Operating profit declined 5%, with the related margin decreasing 100 basis points, due primarily to the mix of revenues, partially offset by cost controls and the benefits of efficiency initiatives.
A recent post featuring a video of Bob Berring discussing free legal information on the Thomson Reuters blog has stirred up debate in the comments. Charges by Carl Malamud that Bob is a “paid spokesman” for West ignited the comments, and prompted this response from Bob:
- I am troubled by the comments impugning my ethics and moral bona fides. The statements are false. I am not a spokesperson for West, nor was I compensated for my remarks. They were made as part of video tribute being put together for the 2009 AALL meeting. The beauty of being an old, tenured professor is that one can say just what one means. And I did. You might contend that I am off base, but I say what I believe to be true. The issues are worth discussing. Ad hominen attacks don’t add much to that discussion.
The result: an offer from Ed Walters to hold a ‘summit’ in Washington, DC to discuss the issues. I hope that they post a video of that meeting!