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.
Michael Feit earned his J.D. from the Loyola University School of Law in Chicago and was an executive at Westlaw before founding Feit Consulting 16 years ago. Feit Consulting partners with law firm administrators and legal information professionals to optimize vendor contracts and the management and delivery of legal information resources by providing leading-edge, customized solutions. Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org