Back in March, I wrote an “Open Letter to New” 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 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 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” 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.