If you ever want to have some fun at the expense of a law firm librarian, just go up to them and “I have some lawyers that want us to buy a firm wide subscription to Law360… is there anything I should know before doing it?” Then step back and watch them spit fire as they talk about all the things they hate about Law360’s business practices and subscription increases. Once you got them red in the face and dropping a few inappropriate phrases, smile and say “I was just kidding.” Then step back out of punching range.

Now, go ask an attorney what he or she thinks of Law360 and you’ll get a completely different response. I usually get something along the line of “This is the only email that I actually read when it comes in with the daily updates.” That is actually a pretty impressive response from the attorneys, and it is one in which it is very difficult to then tell them that we need to cut the product.

What makes Law360 so valuable to the attorneys? Most of us know that the content is eventually available in other places. The writing isn’t always the most professional. Other products, like a CCH or BNA report tend to be much more thorough in their reporting and linking to relevant legal materials. So what is it about Law360 that is so attractive to the attorneys? Here’s my thoughts:

  1. It is written much like a tabloid. Nice, easy to read headlines with just enough information to invite the reader to click and want to read more.
  2. The practice topics are broken out into nice groups that make sense to the attorneys.
  3. Attorneys are often asked to write articles for Law360, and they know that peers will notice they are writing an article.
  4. Law360 knows what strokes the egos of lawyers, and at the same time, what piques their curiosity through placement of law firm and company names in articles, and inviting others in their firm to read articles the lawyer has written.

To me, number four is the key to success. Lawyers are typically insecure, especially those in BigLaw firms. That doesn’t mean that they are bad lawyers. In fact, they are the top lawyers in their fields, otherwise they wouldn’t be creating the PPP levels that BigLaw firms make (even during the “end of lawyers?” days.) They are insecure because they think that their peer at another firm knows something they don’t, or that they have a process or software or plan that gives them a competitive advantage over them, and they always want to know what the other firms are doing, who they are representing, and who is joining their team. Law360 understands this insecurity and leverages it to their advantage. In a way, it is pure brilliance.

My favorite tactic is when Law360 gets a lawyer from a firm to write an article, and then they place it in a section of the Law360 topics that the firm doesn’t subscribe. Then sends an email to attorneys within the firm giving them a teaser to the article, and a link that then asks them to sign into the platform. Lawyers see this, then call the librarian to get a copy of the article. Since Law360 has been very, very diligent on calling out people on listservs that ask for copies of the articles (because the licensing agreement restricts sending articles outside the firm), librarians then have to tell the attorneys that they cannot get a copy of it because of Law360’s licensing agreement forbids it. As you might guess, the next question from the attorney is “Well, how much does it cost to subscribe?” At that point, the librarian, who has been told not to order any new subscriptions by the ultimate powers-that-be, is now stuck in between a rock and a hard place. The options are to see if they can get this one article somewhere on the Black Market, tell the attorney “Hell No”, go to the powers-that-be and ask for an exemption, or attempt to sneak the subscription through and hope that no one notices the increase in the annual budget. None of these options are very appealing to the librarian, and the results are usually more bitterness directed at Law360.

Quite frankly, the Law360 model is pretty brilliant, even if it causes the average blood pressure of law librarians to increase 10% at the mere mention of their name. Get attorneys to write articles, charge them and their peers to read those articles, and then stroke their egos while simultaneously playing on their insecurities. I can’t think of a better business model. Factor in some of the outrageous price increases they have charged to law firms, and you’ve got something that Steve Jobs would have been proud of.

To be fair to Law360, and its now parent organization, LexisNexis, they do put out a very good product. I would bet that if you did a cost analysis of what you pay per article read by a lawyer, that the average cost per article for Law360 is significantly less than what you pay per read article from BNA or CCH. I don’t have hard stats on that, so I’m going with my gut and my previous experiences. I’ve heard many librarians say that they tell their attorneys that most of the articles (or at least the substance of those articles) they see in Law360 will show up in the next few days in other publications, so that they can wait until it shows up in either a free product or a subscription that the firm already owns. As many of us know, lawyers don’t usually like being told to wait a few days. In those few days all of their peers at other firms (who obviously already subscribe to Law360) will gain a competitive advantage over them and will steal all of their clients away because the peers know something that they don’t!! Wait?? If we wait, we lose!! We need to subscribe now!!!

Law360… you are brilliant!

This is the point at which the law librarian opens the side drawer on his desk and takes his blood pressure medication and counts the days to retirement.