10/4/10

Lexis Advance for Solos: What It Is... What It Does... And, Yes... Even What It Costs


Back in March, I wrote an "Open Letter to New Lexis.com" where I asked that they "let everyone know exactly who you are, what you can do, and how much you are going to cost us." Last week, I talked with Marc Osborn and Jorge Martinez of LexisNexis and they gave me a preview of the first release of the "New Lexis 1.0 Platform", called "Lexis Advance for Solos." It seems that the Lexis Advance people took my advice to heart and even told me that they re-read my open letter to make sure that they tell everyone exactly what the Lexis Advance for Solos is... what it does... and how much it costs. Over the hour-long conference, that is exactly what they did. Now that the embargo period is over, let me share with you what I learned.

Lexis Advance for Solos — What is it?

LAS Carousel
Lexis Advance for Solos (LAS) is the first public release of the new Lexis Advance platform, which LexisNexis developed as a completely new and separate platform from the existing Lexis.com platform. Just as with the WestlawNext product, there is a lot of changes in the look and feel of the product, but the most significant changes are on the back end of the product with new database structures, and re-engineering of the entire structure of the data, search and retrieval systems based on thousands of interviews, interactions, and evaluations by legal professionals. The team at LexisNexis has decided that they will launch the first iteration of the new platform only to Solo and Small Firm attorneys and will use this experience to build the next releases aimed at starting in 2011. 

So, what is the Lexis Advance for Solos? Here's a snippet of the press release that shows exactly what is in the product:
Comprehensive and fully enhanced primary law from all states: All available LexisNexis case law (Federal and State), including all LexisNexis headnotes and case summaries. All available statutes and constitutions (Federal and State) from all 50 states and US territories.
Shepard’s case citation service: The LexisNexis exclusive citator allows solo practitioners to quickly check if a case is good law.
The LexisNexis industry-leading collection of jury verdicts, briefs, pleadings and motions: Includes premium materials from IDEX.
LexisNexis CourtLink content: Includes the full collection of dockets.
Expert witness transcripts, depositions, and curricula vitae.
Additional content will become available in future Lexis Advance releases: news, public records, legislative and additional secondary materials, and other content will be available in subsequent Lexis Advance releases.
The "Additional Content" would most likely be an add-on to the Lexis Advance for Solos product, and would not be included in the cost of the core LAS product.

In addition to the products listed, the initial release also includs a core set of 24 treatise titles. I was not told specifically which titles were included, and I was specifically told that this was an introductory offer only, and when the initial contract ended, these titles would be an additional cost. The initial contracts could range anywhere from one to three years in length.

One other caveat was that this product would be sold to new customers only, or those where existing contracts were expiring. During the initial roll out of Lexis Advance for Solos, they would not attempt to renegotiate existing contracts. I'll come back to this later when I discuss how much LAS costs.

Lexis Advance for Solos — What Does It Do?

LAS Search Results w/Filter Options
The Lexis Advance platform claims to improve upon many features from the current Lexis.com platform (it also has a look and feel of the iTunes coverflow carousel to me):
Easy search: An intuitive single search interface that eliminates the need to select sources before searching, cutting out multiple steps in the search process. This simple feature enables a full search across all included content to ensure complete results.
Integrated results from the open web: Allows users to search the free Internet via Lexis Web along with premium content from LexisNexis simultaneously in a single step, efficiently delivering results organized by content type.
Pre and Post search filters: Gives users the control to get relevant search results faster and with more confidence that they will not miss critical information. By selecting pre and post filter criteria users are able to control and refine their comprehensive searches for additional precision.
New Innovations: My Workspace Carousel and Legal Issue Trail deliver entirely new and more efficient ways for users to access, organize and verify legal research.
Change Client Option
The developers and LexisNexis told me that this specific product was set up specifically with the solo and small firm attorney's style of practice in mind. The focus at this time is to allow for such things as ease of client tracking, foldering of research trails, and ease of transitioning between different clients without a lot of effort on the part of the attorney. Some of the features that are needed by large firms, but not usually necessary in solo or small firm environments (such as cost recovery tools) are not built into this release of Lexis Advance. Those bells and whistles will be coming in future releases.

Some of the bells and whistles that are included in LAS are:

Word Wheel
  • "My Folder" creation – Allows attorney to create and save search results, documents and notes within a LAS folder and can store that information indefinitely. (No folder sharing with other LAS users will be available in this release.)
  • Privacy Options for Folders – You can set up by default to 'hide' the folders on the screen to prevent "wandering eyes" from seeing what you are working on.
  • Entire Search History – Review your entire search history and retrieve previous research results quickly and easily.
  • "Word Wheel" – most searched queries on these topics. This helps with the search strategies and suggested search terms.
  • Boolean Search Still Available - Not all connectors… just the most used will be brought into Lexis Advance for Solos
Lexis Advance for Solos — How Much Does It Cost?

To be honest with you, I really didn't expect to be quoted a price on the LAS product when I talked with Marc and Jorge. When they came right out and said that the introductory price would be $175 per month for solos and $315 for a two-lawyer firm, I can honestly say that my head shot up from my note taking, and I asked them to repeat that to me one more time because I thought they just slipped up and exposed a corporate secret to me. After all the frustration involved in the WestlawNext release, and the obscure "modest premium" pricing fiasco, I was relieved and impressed that LexisNexis would come right out and say "this is our price." This isn't just the "street value" of the product, it is the actual "take it or leave it" price. Local sales reps do not have any authority to negotiate pricing (up or down). Again, after dealing with the WestlawNext pricing issues, and then having the sales force turned loose on the law firms with orders to basically "get as much as you can from them," this was a huge relief to hear that LexisNexis wouldn't be taking this type of approach on its new platform. Also, according to the press release, the product is set up so that "there is no risk of out-of-plan charges." So, taking the sales pressure off and then adding in the stability of knowing that you're not going to get a surprise invoice in the mail at the end of the month because you got into something outside of contract, should be welcome news to solos.


Note: The second lawyer pays $140. There is talk of allowing LAS to go to firms of more than two lawyers, but the initial press release seems to limit it to one or two attorneys.


Lexis Advance for Solos — Who's the Competition?
  
Since LexisNexis is going after new customers with this product, you have to ask yourself exactly who are they going to be competing with in this market? Of course, WestlawNext is one key competitor. For those solos and small firm attorneys that are sitting on the fence on making the switch to WestlawNext, the content and predictable pricing of LAS may entice them to make the switch to the new LexisNexis platform instead of the new Thomson Reuters platform.

Although WestlawNext seems to be who you think of as a traditional target for LAS, I think there is more competition on this end of the legal market than just the duopoly of LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters. Low-cost providers that sell primarily to solo and small firm clients, such as Loislaw, Fastcase or TheLaw.Net may find that LAS is directly going to be a direct competitor. Why would a solo or small firm attorney pay for these products when they could get a premium and well-trusted product directly from LexisNexis? Just think about what an attorney would get for $95 a month from a Fastcase product and compare that with what they get for $175 from LAS. The fact that LAS includes unlimited Shepardizing in of itself could give the justification to switch. Add in the reliability of the Lexis product, the fact that all cases, statutes and regulations are built into the Lexis platform (no linking out to state or federal websites for that data), and then add in Courtlink docket information and other products like IDEX, then you'd have to say that the products on the low-cost side of the legal research market have themselves a tough competitor.

Lexis Advance for Solos — What Does This Mean?

LAS Search Results Screen
I wouldn't have thought that LexisNexis would create a product to compete on this end of the market, but after thinking about it, it does seem to be a niche that has a lot of customers, and is a full of potential for LexisNexis in expanding its customer base beyond the high-cost market of larger firms. On the surface it sure seems like a smart move on LexisNexis' part. It will be interesting to see how this effects the low-cost legal research market over the next couple of years.

I've only seen snippets of the new Lexis Advance for Solos, but I was impressed with what I was shown, but more importantly, I was impressed with what I heard from the people at LexisNexis. It does sound like they took the advice I gave them in the "Open Letter to the New Lexis.com" to heart. Whenever you launch a new product and you can tell me what it is, what it does, and how much it costs, then you've already cleared three major huddles in getting my attention and keeping it. If Lexis Advance for Solos turns out to be what Lexis is saying it is, and they continue to shoot straight with their potential customers, I think they may just have a winner on their hands.


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7 comments:

Jason said...

Greg,

I disagree that Fastcase and Casemaker are competitors here. Although no one has ever told me, I suspect most of their revenue comes from state bar associations, which give it lawyers for free. So the value equation is really $175 v. $0 if you're considering those resources. If it's Loislaw, then you're looking at $175 v. $45-60.

But perhaps you and Toby have a better understanding of the FastCaseMaker revenue stream and would be willing to shed some light on it.

Greg Lambert said...

Jason,

I'd agree with you if it weren't for the fact that so many lawyers don't know that they can get Fastcase or Casemaker through their bar associations (whether that is a Fastcase/Casemaker or a State Bar issue is unclear.)

I purposely left out Casemaker in my post because they do not sell individual subscriptions (that I know of)... but Fastcase does. And, in fact, there are a number of solo & small firms here in Texas that subscribe to Fastcase or Loislaw or TheLaw.Net, even though Casemaker is free to them. When I asked a few of these lawyers why they didn't just use Casemaker, half of them didn't know that was even a possibility.

The key here that makes this product competitive against these providers is simply the fact that Shepards is included. Sure, you can pull cases left and right from the Loislaws or TheLaw.Net, but trying to run them through a trusty citator to test if all of those cases are still good law requires you to go to Shepards or KeyCite. Rack up a few citator charges over the month and you can quickly get to the Lexis Advance for Solo price.

One other detail. Loislaw's monthly recurring fee is $140/mth for its Primary Law National subscription.

Jason said...

Greg,

I would agree that there are a lot of lawyers who don't know they can get free case law through their bar associations, but what I'm talking about is percentage of revenue. I suspect that individual subscriptions for Fastcase (I thought CaseMaker was in this space already) make up a small part of its revenue stream compared to what they make off the bar association contracts. So any pick up from Lexis on that front would (assuming I'm correct) affect Fastcase less than say Loislaw.

From the solo perspective, the Lexis offering is attractive given customary pricing for the components, and I think they will make a dent in the market. But honestly, I think they went the solo route first because they saw how well WestlawNext was playing to the same market. Most in the industry are already talking about how Lexis has nearly lost on BigLaw (when those firms are having to choose between vendors), so they can't afford to lose the solo/small market too. If they were to get rid of sales reps and go right to an online storefront, they could probably pick up even more momentum.

Tim Baran said...

This is really great. As a former law librarian who frustratingly negotiated Westlaw and Lexis contracts, this pricing transparency with no surprise "not in the plan" charges is a huge step forward. Throw in news and law review databases and it's golden :-)

Karli said...

I have had the chance to try this along side Westlaw Next for the past week and the difference is staggering. By far Westlaw Next gives more on-point answers in primary law research. Lexis Advance brings back way too many results and most of them are not relevant. I'm using the same search terms in each and for the small price difference, I think I am going with Westlaw Next. It's like an iPhone vs. some ripoff on Sprint. West clearly has the iPhone here while the Lexis product is a nice looking ripoff that does not perform in practice.

Greg Lambert said...

Karli,

Is the WestlawNext price comparable to the $175 a month for the same type of databases that Lexis Advance is offering?

LawyerOne said...

I gave up on Lexis Advance for Solos after a short test-run, as there were too many problems to make it worth continuing to explore.

First, the text of footnotes does not appear automatically. Instead, you have to click on a footnote number, upon which the text of the footnote appears in a pop-up bubble. This feature makes it tedious to copy cases and paste them into a Word or WordPerfect document (nor was there a stand-alone option to do so). Also, the name of the case is, in essence, separate from the body of the case, making it even more of a hassle to copy cases into text.

When you want to search two terms that are within a certain number of words of each other, you must type "near/#" rather than just a slash and the number. Also, when you put in an improper search (such as by omitting the word "near"), you get a boilerplate error message that does not tell you that your improper search was the cause of the error.

Finally, there are no options to set up preferences. As an example, I wanted to have my cases come up so that they are easily copied into a text document, which would mean that footnotes would appear in the body of the case rather than in bubbles.

There are, to be sure, some nifty features, some of which I probably would have eventually used. However, I generally like to keep things fairly simple, and it doesn't appear that doing so was possible.

 

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