Kevin O’Keefe, wrote about the dueling Lexis and Thomson Reuters blogger summits on Tuesday in his post, Who’s Influencing Who. He seems to be concerned that the big L and TR are trying to curry favorable blog content by lavishing a few bloggers with fancy perks. I happened to stumble across his post as I was lounging on my pillow top King Size bed and perusing my Twitter feed on Tuesday afternoon in the St. Paul Hotel, in St. Paul, Minnesota. I even mentioned it to my dinner companions later that evening at the St. Paul Grill, where I enjoyed a wonderfully buttery cream of mushroom soup, bourbon glazed Pork Chops, and asparagus with hollandaise, washed down with a very drinkable (and free flowing) Cabernet Sauvignon, all of which was kindly paid for by my very good friends at Thomson Reuters. In return for this spectacular treatment, Thomson asked exactly two things of me: 1) venture to the Twin Cities in January! and 2) listen to five hours or so of the marketing pitches, development road maps, and executive presentations that they will be presenting at Legal Tech New York in a couple of weeks. The one thing no one ever overtly asked me to do was to write about the event or the product announcements. Now, I’m not stupid, and they’re certainly not either. If you invite bloggers to a summit, you’re looking to create buzz. If you ply them with good food and wine, you’re hoping it’s really good buzz. I’m sure the Lexis event was much the same.
Some of my colleagues who were in Eagan are, in fact, journalists as well as bloggers. I’ll let them speak for themselves, but speaking only for me, I am not a journalist. I do not have pretensions to be a journalist. My lifelong friendship and goodwill can be openly bought for the price of a couple of rounds of drinks and a few hours of good conversation. And I will gladly say nice things on this blog and elsewhere about anyone who wishes to purchase my friendship in such a manner. (BTW, Toby and Greg: really great guys.) That said, drinks, presents, perks, and “flights to Eagan, Minnesota in January” on their own, don’t buy much from me, it’s much more about the good conversations. Please feel free to take that into account as you read anything I write. Including the following.
Back to Thomson…
I came away from the excursion to Eagan having learned a couple of things.
1) Thomson has a lot of really smart, very interesting, and incredibly nice people working for them.
2) Thomson now sees itself as primarily a software and solutions company, rather than an information and news provider. Interesting.
3) Thomson is moving a number of their new and existing products to the cloud. (I’m pretty sure Mike Suchsland, President of the Legal group at Thomson, paused momentarily after he said this as if expecting a gasp of shocked surprise from the bloggers around the table. And he seemed just a little disappointed at the “yeah, we figured” response he got.)
4) Thomson has a “new class of products, tools, and technologies that [they] think will define the next generation of technology for the evolving legal marketplace” Um… maybe. We (the bloggers) didn’t get to play with any software. We saw a couple of demos and some screen shots. Two new products, Concourse (for corporate, government, and large firms) and Firm Central (for small firms) are matter centric collaboration and communication hubs that nicely incorporate existing and future TR products into a single, simple, intuitive user interface, that can be customized to meet your firm’s needs. My take is that these are pretty early products. They could definitely grow into generation defining products, but I don’t think they’re there yet. And I think Thomson would probably agree. Concourse looks very much like a consumer, rather than enterprise, product. (Which is good thing.) It has larger fonts and plenty of white space. It’s designed to work on a tablet as well as a desktop. I can imagine it would require very little user training and moderately savvy users who are familiar with consumer products like Dropbox and GoogleDocs will probably pick it up very quickly.
My big takeaway from the event is that in their new role as a software and solutions provider, Thomson is focused heavily on design, seamless integration between products, and overall ease of use. They are very much trying to bring the consumer experience to the enterprise, so I think they are moving in the right direction.
As I didn’t get a chance to use any of the software, I can’t say for sure whether the new TR products are any good or not, but I can say that the people working on them are pretty good conversationalists and they bought me a few drinks. So they’re OK in my book. Does that impugn my integrity?
Some of the more journalistic attendees at the Thomson Reuters event took copious notes and I’m sure some of them will post extensive “reviews” of the products we saw. Rather than duplicate their efforts, I will take the easy (lazy blogger) way out and link to other posts below as I find them.