|Oregon State Bar Bulletin AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2011|
Bloomberg Gets an Upgrade
By Robert J. Ambrogi
Remember Bloomberg Law? It launched in December 2009, attempting “to muscle in on the turf now occupied by Westlaw and LexisNexis,” as I wrote in this column back then (OSB Bulletin, February/March 2010). Now there is a new version of Bloomberg Law. More details below, plus quick hits on other new resources of interest to lawyers.
Given that Bloomberg Law was backed by the international financial news and information company Bloomberg, it clearly had the resources and experience to go head-to-head with the big guys of legal research.
Its biggest challenge, I wrote when it launched, may be to convince the legal market that it needs another high-end research service. One way it planned to address that issue was by offering a fixed, all-you-can-eat price of $450 a month as a counterpoint to the sometimes cryptic and confusing pricing plans of West and Lexis.
In my earlier review, I gave Bloomberg Law credit for “getting into the game with swagger” by loading up on primary legal content, creating its own editorial enhancements, and developing its own citator to rival Shepard’s and KeyCite. But I also said that it was a “work in progress” and I likened it to a luxury yacht only partially constructed. “It is seaworthy,” I said, “but still has a lengthy punch list.”
As it started to work its way through that punch list, Bloomberg Law also brought on a new skipper. Last October, it hired Lou Andreozzi, the former president and CEO of LexisNexis North American Legal Markets, to take the company’s helm as chairman. It also brought in Larry D. Thompson, former VP of business development, strategy and marketing for LexisNexis, as COO.
Now, we get to see what Andreozzi, Thompson and the folks at Bloomberg Law have been up to. On July 5, Bloomberg released what it describes as “the next evolution” of its legal research platform. Changes include a redesigned interface, enhanced search capabilities, new practice centers and enhanced collaboration and workflow features.
One thing that is not changing is Bloomberg Law’s flat-fee, all-inclusive pricing — something the company continues to believe is key to differentiating it from its big-two legal research competitors.
Recently, I spoke with Andreozzi about the changes to Bloomberg Law and was given a brief demonstration. I have not directly had access to log in and test the upgraded version. I hope to do that soon and provide additional comments then.
Flat Fee Pricing
One point Andreozzi emphasized is that the flat-fee pricing model will not change. The price of a subscription remains what it was when the service launched: $450 per user per month. (Enterprise pricing is available to larger organizations.) That price is all-inclusive; there are no hidden or add-on charges for any of the service’s features or libraries. The only price increases customers will receive will be minor adjustments every other year based on the cost of living. “We’re committed to predictable, transparent pricing,” Andreozzi said.
For that, Andreozzi asserted, you get a service that has virtually everything that Westlaw and LexisNexis have — all federal and state primary law, a top-tier citator, national and international dockets, and in-depth news and business intelligence drawn from Bloomberg’s global network.
Bloomberg Law compares unfavorably to Westlaw and LexisNexis only in one respect, he said: its lesser collection of secondary legal materials such as treatises and practice guides. The company continues to move towards the goal of developing secondary materials to cover all practice areas, but it is several years away from reaching that goal, Andreozzi said.
Even so, such secondary materials account for no more than 10 percent of all legal research, Andreozzi estimated. Ninety percent of research involves the three areas where Bloomberg Law is strong: primary law, citations and business intelligence. In fact, Andreozzi believes that lawyers at the highest levels of their practice areas are most likely to focus on that latter category of business intelligence research, including business news, corporate and company information, and docket information.
Many larger law firms maintain subscriptions to both Westlaw and LexisNexis, Andreozzi noted. With Bloomberg Law covering 90 percent or more of what lawyers need in a research product on a flat-fee basis, he suggested, they can now drop at least one of those subscriptions — if not both.
Elsewhere Online: Three Quick Hits
New Supreme Court Podcast
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has launched a podcast series discussing landmark Supreme Court cases. The series, Supreme Court Landmarks, www.uscourts.gov/Multimedia/Podcasts/Landmarks.aspx, discusses cases that have shaped American life.
Each episode features a law professor presenting a brief discussion of a landmark case. The professor explains the case’s background, the key arguments, the decision and why the case has continuing importance.
As of this writing, only two episodes have been posted. In one, Prof. Melanie Wilson, University of Kansas School of Law discusses the 1961 case, Mapp v. Ohio. In the other, Prof. Frederick Schauer of the University of Virginia School of Law discusses the 1989 case, Texas v. Johnson. New episodes will be added each month.
A Wiki to Share Legal Forms
A new legal wiki, Standardforms.org, http://standardforms.org, has been launched to provide a free depository of sophisticated legal documents. Notably, the site is not intended to serve as a cache of ready-to-use legal forms. Instead, its founder hopes that the wiki feature — which allows anyone to add and edit forms — will provide a vehicle for lawyers to improve the forms and lead to a consensus of what they should say.
The wiki’s developer, Florian Feder, is assistant vice president and counsel at Brown Brothers Harriman. He describes himself as “interested in the art (science?) of contract drafting and in ways of making this process more efficient with the help of new technologies.”
He describes the website as a “sandbox” in which lawyers can contribute to a process of drafting legal agreements towards the goal of improving them. One lawyer can add language, another can further revise the language or comment on it. It is the same process that happens whenever lawyers negotiate a contract, Feder says, only “here it is done in the open — for everyone to see and participate.”
As of this writing, the wiki has fewer than 10 forms posted. They include a mutual nondisclosure agreement, Series A term sheet, certificate of incorporation, Series A preferred stock purchase agreement, merger agreement and credit agreement.
A Guide to Better Writing
When Marie Buckley’s former law firm asked her to teach writing to young lawyers, she found out just how difficult it can be to teach someone to write well. As she strove to become a better teacher of writing, she began to assemble a collection of lessons. Over time, she developed those lessons into a manuscript. Now, that manuscript is a book, The Lawyer’s Essential Guide to Writing, published by the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Section.
In conjunction with the publication of her book, Buckley has launched a blog, A Lawyer’s Guide to Writing, http://mariebuckley.com. Although she calls it a blog, it is more a website about writing. Various articles offer tips on style, punctuation, plain English and other aspects of legal writing. She also offers suggestions of helpful books on writing (other than her own) and usage guides. If you are interested in improving your own writing, Buckley’s site is worth a visit.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Ambrogi, who practices law in Rockport, Mass., is the former editor of National Law Journal and Lawyers Weekly USA. He is internationally known for his writing about the Internet and technology. He is the author of three blogs, which can be read at www.legaline.com.
© 2011 Robert Ambrogi