I’m sitting in my office listening to Earth Wind & Fire trying to figure out just where did it go wrong. Looking back, I guess I should have seen the signs:

  • Charging for both the User Interface and the content
  • Laying off all of the Library Relations staff on the West Coast
  • Reallocating personnel to the small firm (read: no pesky librarians) segment

All of these were symptoms. But I thought that we, at least, had developed a partnership over the years based on mutual trust and shared interests. From time to time, I would participate in their panels and write for their newsletters. I would give my opinion on new products and services. I guess I was mistaken.

This fall, I reached out to my account representatives to begin the discussions to renew our contract. Without warning, all contact was cut off. I was told that I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before they would talk to me. A copy of one of the most poorly worded legal documents I had ever seen was then sent for my signature. Naturally, I refused to sign this. Who would sign a contract (the NDA) before negotiating a contract?
This is in direct contravention to Section 3.2(a) of the AALL Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers which reads: “Publishers should not bind their customers to a non-disclose clause as a non-negotiable requirement of doing business.” This language shows that similar circumstances have come up before and been determined to be unfair as a business practice.

So the big question is why would they do this? The only reason I can come up with for this behavior has to do with the proliferation of consultants that specialize in providing advice to assist firms renegotiate there agreements. The amount of information this vendor has at their disposal far outweighs any advantage that a consultant can bring. The current economic environment has made it important for firms to level the playing field when negotiating with their vendors. The bottom line is, by attempting to control the process they risk alienating their customers. That, in turn, will have an impact on revenue, though not the type of impact they are hoping for.

I’m sorry to see it end this way, Westlaw (aka TR Legal). But I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

Sing it, Philip Bailey…
“After the love is gone/What used to be right is wrong…”