The news that Thomson Reuters announced that they are shutting down the Banks Baldwin Company seems to have flown under the radar. Last week, Thomson Reuters’ spokesman Scott Augustin announced that it will shut down the 207 year old Banks Baldwin Company and shift the work of the 132 laid off employees to New York, Minnesota, the Phillipines and India. There were three sentences in Augustin’s statement that I want you to read and think about:

  • “After it closes, the work will be shifted to New York, Minnesota, the Phillipines and India”
  • “It’s important to note that this action is in no way is a reflection on the performance of the Cleveland office staff or the quality of their work”
  • “the [Thomson Reuters/Westlaw] merger had no bearing on the [Banks Baldwin] office’s closing”
Thomson Reuters already started the layoffs last Friday and plans six more rounds of layoffs this year and will shut the Banks Baldwin office down for good by the end of 2010.
It seems that Banks Baldwin was a victim of its own forward thinking ideas. According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:

Banks-Baldwin has long been an innovator in legal information product development. The company established computer databases for its publications in the early 1970s; established the first monthly session law service in 1971; published the only Approved Edition of the Ohio Administrative Code in 1977; provided access to Ohio unreported appellate cases beginning in 1981; launched new product lines for handbooks, journals, and newsletters throughout the 1980s; licensed its publications for online search and retrieval in 1985; and pioneered the development of CD-ROM products for the legal market beginning in 1988.

So, it wasn’t like Banks Baldwin was just a stodgy old print shop operation. However, like many within the US manufacturing industry, the ‘work’ those employees perform is a lot cheaper to do in India and the Phillipines, although the quality may not be as good. It makes you wonder whether there is a future for not just law books, but also whether there is a need for legal research and editing within the United States or if it can just all be outsourced to the cheapest resource?
I hope that another publisher (maybe a new upstart from the ashes of Banks Baldwin) can use the talent that is being left behind in Ohio.