Monthly Archives: November 2018

Nov 15

Inside Bloomberg BNA’s Fall Pricing Surprise

By Michael Feit | Feit Consulting

This article appeared in Legaltech News on 11/13/18.

By Michael Feit

This fall, law firms who subscribe to a handful of BNA reporters and electronic newsletters are receiving a surprise: renewal proposals with unexpected price increases. This comes on the heels of the discontinuance of key products these firms rely on. Early reports from law firm information professionals are describing the proposed price at a substantial 30 percent, 40 percent, or even 50 percent. To justify the upcharges, BBNA clients are being forced into unplanned upgrades with either full or limited BLAW access.

This had not been the standard for BBNA, although it is reminiscent of tactics by their competitors Westlaw and LexisNexis. Up until recently, Bloomberg had abstained from aggressive pricing negotiations. The cost per seat for Bloomberg products may have been high, but annual price increases were within standard range and the prices themselves were more or less transparent. This policy change indicates that BBNA has not been successful illustrating to firms the value of their products beyond what firms may already be receiving from Westlaw and/or LexisNexis.

At certain firms, Bloomberg has the ability to leverage the high value and regard for a small set of their content, which is now enabling them to be more aggressive in negotiations. How far can BBNA push the market and their prices before people walk away?

BBNA is also presenting firms with confusing options, bundling completely different arrays of products, pricing and terms. Firms are reporting that it is taking weeks just to understand the proposals. In addition, when the bundles are fully understood, many are realizing that none of the options actually meet the firm’s needs—and all deliver a big bump in cost. Bloomberg knows that many of these reporters are deemed essential, and this allows them to apply unprecedented pressure.

With no significant advance warning, firms have little recourse in this round of negotiations. Firms have few immediate alternatives, although they exist to a degree thanks to competitors like Wolters Kluwer. With no warning, and no time to negotiate, research or prepare, de facto options are essentially nonexistent.

From a broader perspective, as Bloomberg has had little success penetrating the firm-wide market as a competitor to Westlaw and Lexis, it seems to have decided to leverage the strengths of its unique assets. However, it is unknown if this short-term thinking will be sustainable in the long run.

In the end, the outcome may resemble what has transpired in other similar markets. Alternatives and new competitors will spring up. Customers will be on the alert to seek out more reasonably-priced options. And when the pain of these price increases—and presumably, additional increases to come—becomes too great to bear, firms will simply begin to walk away.

In the meantime, however, this rearguard pricing action is nothing more and nothing less than an information imbalance. It’s basic economics. Markets operate efficiently when everyone has a reasonable degree of information. In this case, Bloomberg currently has all the information and is leveraging that advantage (for now).

In our view, the worst response a firm could have is to default into accepting the new deal. The best response firms can have to these tactics is to increase their own information storehouse. Arming yourself with information about substitutes creates the best possible environment for negotiating, and if necessary, saying “no” is a negotiator’s best friend. This means taking steps now to determine whether the Bloomberg suite of products is absolutely essential, or whether there are alternatives to fill some (or all) of the resulting gaps.

Nov 14

How and Why Your Firm Can Make the Case for the Modern Library

By Michael Feit | Feit Consulting

Change is a constant in the legal industry.

Clients are not only applying tremendous downward pressure on price but are driving their law firms to provide more value.  And they want that value delivered faster – and cheaper.

These pressures affect the modern law library as it is a core component of any firm’s ability to deliver client value.  Firms know this, but are challenged to know where to start when investigating how their information services compare to peer firms.  Here are just a few of the levers law firm libraries need to assess:

  • Work-flow Efficiencies
  • Using Technology for Service & Process Improvement
  • New Generations of Research Tools
  • Showcasing Value through Metrics
  • Remote Access – Resources on the go
  • Inter-Departmental Collaboration

This assessment can best be accomplished with a thorough audit of the library to evaluate current practices.  A library audit can be performed internally, but results in these situations are often better achieved by a third party consultancy.  They not only bring an objective, unbiased presence to the audit process, but also deliver a broader, industry-wide insight.

When Feit Consulting leads a library audit, we deliver an integrated project approach.  Through a combination of surveys, interviews and site visits, we provide analysis and a comprehensive plan to enhance the delivery of legal information. Specifically:

  • Project meetings with firm.
  • Stakeholders are identified.
  • Surveys, interviews and site visits are calendared with key stakeholders.
  • Feit Consulting on-site visits include:
  • Review physical operations.
  • One-on-one interviews with: Attorneys, IT, Marketing, Administrator, Library Staff, Paralegal/Investigator
  • Key information is gathered including budgets, library AP, library shelf list, existing policies and other information as determined.

With these insights from library users, Feit industry experts perform a SWOT analysis, to understand current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  The SWOT analysis will identify those things that the library is currently doing well, as well as those areas where there is room for improvement.

A library audit requires some attention and time, but it is an opportunity for information professionals to ensure that they are deploying best-practices to maximize the value that the library brings to the firm.

Nov 13

Prepare, Pushback, and Pilot

By Michael Feit | Feit Consulting

As law firms continue to move towards digital research tools, reducing reliance on print, the management of vendors relations has become critical.

In the past several months, two of the main legal information service providers, Lexis and Bloomberg, have begun playing what can only be characterized as “hardball.” This particular game features major price increases, mandatory product bundling, incomprehensible contracts, secrecy and in general, the kind of tactics and hardball maneuvering that a scorched-earth litigator might recognize.  Faced with this new normal, librarians must come up with something new.   We suggest a 3 pronged approach:  prepare, push-back, and pilot.

Prepare: Do your homework, both internally and externally. Internally, look through your current library operation and understand what’s going on, in depth, and with metrics. Which services are used the most? Which aren’t?  Are certain resources no longer needed?  Which costs are being passed-through and recovered, and which aren’t? Are certain practice groups relying on a handful of resources?  Know how your library works, and what kind of financial and operational profile it presents to firm management.  Externally, take the time and make the effort to understand what’s going on in the marketplace. Talk to your competitors. Read the trade press. Use the information you have prepared yourself with to have your negotiating position ready.

Push-back:  Knowing what your limits are, and your bottom line you are ready to negotiate.  Critically evaluate any proposals against the knowledge you gained in the preparation phase.  If you don’t like what you see?  Push-back.  You don’t have to accept an information provider’s offer right out of the gate.  Work on getting concessions that meet your goals.  Keep in mind that this is a business negotiation and what was a cooperative relationship may turn contentious.

Pilot: Nothing enhances negotiation outcomes more than having an alternative – a way to say “no.” Find out in advance what these alternatives are, pilot them, and find out firsthand if they work for your firm.  Technology and information are moving faster and faster, as well as being more and more available.  New information resources and tools are continually emerging in the market.  Much of the information you’re currently paying for may well be available from alternate sources, at much better prices.

Taking the time to Prepare, Push-back and Pilot will equip you for even the toughest negotiations and help insure each end-result is optimized in your firm’s favor.

Nov 13

Law Library Strategy and The New Normal

By Michael Feit | Feit Consulting

Law libraries have changed over the last decade or so, collectively powered by a newly-articulated need to demonstrate both ROI and alignment with the firm’s overall strategic plan.

In making this happen, a good starting point is always understanding what strategy is in the first place.

“Strategy” like “love” and “honesty” is one of the most poorly-defined terms in the English language. That being said, a workable definition is that strategy is the determination of how you plan to win in a market or game or war with other players, by determining where you’re going to put your resources.

A law library has a limited amount of time, management attention, and most of all, budget with which to work. It can’t do everything, and it especially can’t do everything well. Given that it’s a zero-sum game, where do you focus your resources? What’s most important, and what’s not? There are two responses to this question, which have to work in concert.

First, know what the profession as a whole is doing. Your library has to have a strategy, and if it’s innovative or new to the firm, knowledge of general trends within law libraries gives you the data and ammunition you need to defend your strategy.  Know what’s going on with your peers and how they’re reacting to changes in the marketplace, in technology, with information providers in general.

Second, look at your firm’s strategic plan. How are they planning to compete? Where are they putting their resources? What practice groups, technologies, markets, initiatives are being funded, and which are not? Every law firm of any size has such a plan, either written or not, and the key to adapting to the new normal for law libraries is to be able to demonstrate how your library’s strategy (including expenditures and priorities) directly supports firm goals.  Used together, knowing what your peers are doing coupled with the firm’s strategy provides a very strong platform for defending your library’s over-arching goals.

If your current library strategy addresses both of these questions, you’ll have the answers ready and provide demonstrable value to your firm.

Feit Consulting’s experts can help you evaluate your strategy and show you how it compares to best practices in the market.  If you don’t have a strategy, we can help you develop that too.  You can reach out to us here with questions.

Nov 13

Lexis’s Legal Pricing Strategy Has Haters, But Might Be a Risk Worth Taking

By Michael Feit | Feit Consulting , Pricing , Vendors

This article appeared in Legaltech News on 6/25/18.

By Michael Feit

Sometimes, there’s not much that can help the medicine go down, and when there’s not, it becomes clear the rather repugnant taste of it (the medicine). This is a metaphor for the now center-stage discussion taking place regarding the pricing practices of LexisNexis and the cease and desist letter prepared by AALL which argues that Lexis’s recent tactics breach anti-competitive covenants rendering the new sales practices illegal or at least render the tactics at odds with the AALL Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers.

LexisNexis and Westlaw dominate the lion’s share of online research and print platforms for all law firms of all sizes; in fact, most large firms historically adopted a practice of providing both services to its attorneys. Today, less than half of larger firms retain both. Prior to the recession law firms were able to pass-through and recover >80% of their Lexis and Westlaw costs. However, since the recession, both vendors have been in defense mode. Online cost recovery has dropped to <35% and firms have been increasingly realizing retaining both vendors is unnecessary. The evaluation of the sole provider option is not just a viable option for most firms—it is a necessity.

Having discontinued the ideal world of standardized pay-as-you-go retail pricing by 2010, both have been operating in secretive pricing practices and leveraging terms that vary greatly from firm to firm—not the least of which is pricing Am Law and NYC firms disproportionately higher than the rest of the market, albeit ad hoc.

Therefore, LexisNexis recently leveraged the power of a certain suite of its products–including Lex Machina, Law 360, Wall Street Journal and American Lawyer subscriptions–to the sale of Lexis Advance; an unpopular move within the information services community, the move is a tactical effort to win sales over Westlaw abut which subsequently triggered the outcry from the information services community.

What Lexis is doing is really not that unusual in this market. In an ideal world, yes, the industry’s two dominant players–Lexis and Westlaw–would publish retail pricing, and firms could pick and choose buffet-style which products they wanted based on their practice needs and budget. Unfortunately, that ideal world does not exist, and has not existed for some time. Both Lexis and Westlaw are mature products in a saturated market trying to hold on to a revenue stream that has nowhere to go but down.

Ever since the release of WestlawNext, Westlaw has been the more popular platform. Lexis, for some time, had an inferior interface that made Westlaw the go-to vendor at many firms that continued to have both vendors. Lexis, as a result, was then easier to cut because of low usage. Even when Lexis was retained, it typically was in the context of a large price concession.

On top of this, and symptomatic of a mature market, there are now many new tools and efficiencies that are cannibalizing usage–and new tools will continue to emerge and continue to cannibalize. Lexis has invested in several analytical tools, but artificial intelligence products, savvy analytical tools are all going to erode the use of Lexis and Westlaw, unless, of course these vendors continue to purchase all the new products entering the market.

For all these reasons and more, firms are vigorously debating the viability of operating with just one platform—and for the first time since the early 90’s, retaining just one of these vendors has become the norm. Our data shows 54% of large law firms have now, in fact, opted to retain only one vendor, with about 60% choosing Westlaw.

In a tangible way, there are winners and losers. Lexis would not be able to recover 7+ years of usage lost to WestlawNext without this tie-in tactic. Tying Lexis Advance to core products, such as Lex Machina, Law360 and print has made Lexis competitive once again versus Westlaw. While doing so is not building good will, customer service and satisfaction are not the primary aim of a mature vendor—the products just need to be indispensable and, for at least some firms, it appears that some are.

Elimination of Lexis is no longer easy. Firms that have recently eliminated Lexis have found it uncomfortable to live without the peripheral products. Some have come back into the Lexis fold and others are contemplating coming back. Firms who would have eliminated Lexis are now thinking twice about that outcome.

Does this make Lexis the winner? In the short run, potentially yes—meaning, this strategy is working for Lexis to preserve its client base and revenue stream for now. However, Lexis runs a huge risk that firms who are forced to live without their other products might find that life-style relatively easy and may never return. Currently, Lexis is banking on that not being the case but only time will tell.

Nov 09

Participate in the 2019 Legal Information Vendor Market Survey

By Michael Feit | Feit Consulting

Feit Consulting is excited to announce the 2019 Legal Information Vendor Market Survey is now open for participation.

For 2019, the Legal Information Vendor Market Survey has been expanded to capture more of your thoughts on all legal information providers and emerging trends.  The survey will drill down to better understand motivators related to; vendor choice, sole provider, price expectations and more for all major legal information vendors.

In 2018, LexisNexis and Bloomberg BNA forced customers to upgrade to core products in order to retain access to much-needed ancillary content that was previously available a la carte.  This bundling tactic added to an already existing price frustration that law firm administrators were experiencing with their legal information vendors, further complicating purchasing strategies.

The Feit Consulting 2019 Legal Information Vendor Market Survey will help the market better understand true current trends, including:

  1. Status of the sole provider trend.
  2. Impact of Lexis’ new purchasing restrictions
  3. Depth of Bloomberg’s firm-wide penetration in law firms
  4. Other products are firms considering or adopting
  5. Current recovery rates and the movement to overhead
  6. Market response to Westlaw Edge
  7. Overall sentiment of legal information product users.

About the Survey

To help law firms understand their platform purchasing options more fully, Feit Consulting created the Market Trends Legal Information Series in 2015.  The series provides objective guidance to large and medium law firm administrators on best practices relating to the management of legal information resources as well as provides critical insight, analysis and guidance not available elsewhere that helps firms make informed decisions regarding legal information options.

The 2019 Legal Information Vendor Market Survey will inform updates of Feit Consulting’s upcoming Market Trends Legal Information Series white papers.  Survey participants receive a complimentary copy of the Survey results, expected to be released in January 2019.

President of Feit Consulting, Michael Feit, remarks, “Law firms need to know and understand this data to leverage and maneuver in this quickly evolving market. Our Market Trends Legal Information Series white papers allow firms to make informed decisions regarding information vendor service providers. Data-driven negotiations help firms achieve their goal of purchasing the tools their attorneys truly require at the best market price. We look forward to delivering this valuable market intelligence in Q1 of 2019.”