Over the weekend, I had a nice conversation with some of my peers in other law firm departments (Marketing, IT, and other administration leaders), about the American Association of Law Libraries’ (AALL) letter to Lexis, asking that Lexis cease their current sales requirement of tying Lexis Advance to non-related materials, including Law360, Lex Machina, print material, and other products. I think my colleague, Jean O’Grady did a great job covering this topic in her blog post, so I won’t re-hash the specifics of the letter. However, it is definitely an issue which those outside the law firm libraries should take notice, and be very concerned. This is something that affects the entire law firm, not just the law librarians.
When the discussion comes up with my peers in other departments, there’s a trend for them to begin talking about how much they like their law librarians, and librarians in general. I don’t want to discredit the likability of the library brand, but I did want to stress that this type of issue goes beyond the “love” of librarians, and centers on the core value of the law librarians to fight on behalf of their law firm’s interests. While I enjoy the “librarian love”, I would like to remind my administrative peers and law firm leadership that your librarians have million dollars in budget costs. Typically, the library budget comes in only behind the administrative budget of the IT department. Each year, we have to deal with vendors who want double-digit % increases while negotiating with law firm management who want to flatten the library budget every year. The librarian is there to do their due diligence on behalf of each office, practice area, and individual to make sure they have the right resources in order to perform their legal obligations while negotiating fair deals and insuring there’s no waste and duplication of resources. It should be no surprise to administrative teams that attorneys think that they need everything because of how much money they bring into the firm, and that everyone else should have their resources cut.
This specific situation with Lexis should bother our administrative peers because of how much Lexis has a choke-hold on Legal news. They own Law360, and have industry contractual control of many of the big newspapers and legal news publications (American Lawyer Media). So all those items now require you to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars (or millions) to buy Lexis Advance… whether you need it or not. Think of all the ALM products you would lose access to if you were a Westlaw only firm? All those CI materials you need… poof! AmLaw 100 & 200 info… gone. What Lexis is doing is harmful to the industry and makes no logical sense other than they are trying to prop up a product that cannot stand on its own.
The other thing to worry about is that Lexis is not the only vendor out there that is putting its toe in the water of requiring the purchase of one product in order to purchase an unrelated product. I know that most of my peers believe that “everything is online” so print purchasing is dead. This is both untrue, and a mistake on which to base your information purchasing strategy. While a number of things are online, it doesn’t always make sense to pay the premium costs of online access versus the providing of specialty print items to lawyers in niche practices. One of the biggest values of the law librarian is understanding when it makes sense to purchase specialty print over online materials. There can literally be a five or six-figure difference in costs on some of these subscriptions.
Again… librarians are great people, and usually very nice and polite, but law librarians are also bad asses who are looking out for their firm’s information and knowledge needs. Your librarian may not say this directly to you, so let me say it on behalf of all of us.