I was a little shocked (I think it may have raised to the level of ‘ticked-off’) yesterday when I read that WestlawNext (WLN) was being rolled out to law schools this Spring, and law students would get access to WLN as soon as the Fall 2010 semester. While I have no issues with law librarians and faculty at law schools having access to WLN (apparently at no additional cost to the schools), I have to say that I’m extremely disappointed in the people at ThomsonReuters that decided that giving this new product to law students was a good idea. In fact, it specifically flies in the face of what I and others who traveled to Eagan, Minnesota last month were told. When Jason Eiseman shot the video of a group of us discussing WLN, if you move up to around the 5:05 minute mark of the video, you hear me specifically applaud the ThomsonReuters decision not to roll this out to law students.
The discussion got pretty heated one of the Private Law Libraries listservs last night and the concensus is that exposing law students to a product that hasn’t been adopted by law firms smacks of a ‘marketing ploy’ to try to force the hands of law firms to accept the new WLN platform, along with its “modest premium” price increase. As of this posting, there was no response to the list from ThomsonReuters (though I do expect one sometime today.)
Many of the law librarians were even questioning why this new platform wasn’t just included as part of the current contracts rather than as a premium upgrade at an additional cost. To be fair to ThomsonReuters, I jumped back in the conversation and explained the reasoning that the people on the Project Cobalt team gave me for the “modest premium” upgrade charges that your local Reps will be negotiating. Here are the reasons they gave me:
- The WestlawNext platform is completely separated from what is now on Westlaw.com.
- The infrastructure is completely new, the programming is new, and the search engine is new.
- This project (formerly know as Project Cobalt) took about 5 years and an investment of over $1 Billion.
- WLN breaks down the 30,000 databases and allows you to search all of them (regardless of what your contract covers) without any extra costs (no additional costs would be incurred until you ‘opened’ or ‘downloaded’ one of the out of contract documents.
- In the eyes of ThomsonReuters, this is not simply an upgrade to the product, it is a major redesign of the product from the ground up.
- ThomsonReuters will not maintain both WLN and Westlaw.com – with the .com product eventually being discontinued (no time was mentioned)