LexisNexis learned from WestlawNext’s debacle of a launch—which involved telling everyone at the same time about a new product while only providing it to one market and leaving other markets to the guesswork; not telling anyone the price; and generally irritating librarians by promoting the new but often unavailable service directly to patrons. Instead, LexisNexis is doing it differently. LexisNexis is targeting the solo and microfirms with the new Lexis Advance. These lawyers have to drum up their own clients and manage their own taxes, payroll, calendars, billing, staffing, and training—all in addition to practicing law! They don’t have librarians or law libraries. They work in small offices, home offices, or shared suites.
How big is this market? According to the American Bar Association, “Solo and small firm practitioners represent half of the nation's lawyers." And the Bureau of Labor Statistics counted more than 759,200 attorneys in America in 2008, projecting more than 857,700 by 2018. LexisNexis representatives report that 80% of solo practitioners currently do not subscribe to either LexisNexis or Westlaw.
LexisNexis, which owns Martindale-Hubbell and Lawyers.com, knows who and where these practitioners are. The new sales force has been trained to screen prospects to come up with a customized package from a flexible array of products. For those with a very specialized practice area outside of the initial Lexis Advance products, they recommend Lexis.com.
Solo lawyers have probably never had time to meet with sales reps; nor have they had time to train. They can’t risk the money for unpredictable transactional pricing schemes or memorize complex libraries and files of databases to choose from for their information needs. Boolean shmoolean! They just want to “Google the law!” And costs have to be contained at a predictable and reasonable level. Of course, they want primary law—all of it (not just a few decades), and they don’t want to pay for a lot of stuff they’ll never use. They want treatises and law reviews that will explain and analyze complex legal issues for them, as well as forms for transactional law work (contracts, trusts, etc.) and pleading forms for litigation and appellate work, as well as jury instructions, verdicts, and valuation tools. They also need Shepard’s to make sure they only cite good law. If they can get the “good” legal stuff from the World Wide Web at the same time, with one search, then that sounds like time saved, and it just might be worth it.
Products for solo practitioners and microfirms need to be intuitive, easy, uncomplicated, and straightforward, with no training or learning curve required. And it cannot punish them for taking their time online or doing too many searches, as opposed to modifications. And it can’t be expensive because these lawyers don’t want to bill online expenses to clients who don’t want to pay for them.
Voilá! Lexis Advance.
Lexis can market this initial release to a target audience reachable directly by phone, fax, email, and direct mail. Since LexisNexis owns Martindale-Hubble’s lawyer directory, it knows who and where these solos and microfirms are and how to contact them. These potential clients won’t overwhelm the infrastructure or drag down the response time of LexisNexis right away, but they will come online apace while the developers prepare the next release for the next market segment. At that time, Lexis Advance’s marketers will have to deal with the librarians. But the product, targeted market, pricing, and availability will be known, so they can work with the librarians to bring the courts, large firms, law schools, and public law libraries on board.
Lexis Advance is the Saturn car of the legal information industry. Like the Saturn owners, the solos will pay a flat price for a decent product that more than meets their needs and probably exceeds their expectations, without the flash and cash outlay to acquire or maintain.
At $175 a month ($315 for a two-lawyer firm), LexisNexis Advance is taking Bloomberg Law’s flat monthly fee approach. This flat fee, with no ups or extras, no additional arbitrary charges as with other Lexis pricing schemes, and no negotiating a better rate than anyone else, should fit in most any solo practitioner’s overhead budget. It is tax deductible and can even pay for itself by tracking attorneys’ time as they pull up forms and fill them out, creating billing information on attorney work time. If the attorney bills clients flat fees for work, they can verify that they are recouping all of their costs of doing business. And with more forms (legal and pleading) with instructions to add to their own files of forms that they have developed over the years, these attorneys should be able to accomplish more, faster, and easier, with the single search box, no library to select, no complicated Lexis searching.
Of course, there might be a loss of precision without Boolean tricks of the trade. But these solo lawyers may not have been Lexis or Westlaw users since law school. Plus, they can always prescreen their search or narrow down their initial results by jurisdiction (their own state, all states, federal), area of law they practice, content type they want, date ranges, keywords, and other means. However, they can also use connectors and/or treat words as a phrase by clicking “options” next to the search box (similar to Google’s Advanced Search options).
In addition, they get unlimited Shepardizing, a very important feature. No attorney wants to risk using a case or code that has been overruled! All of that and no training needed (although customized complimentary training sessions are available). Couple all of that with the ability to save searches to folders (by client, matter, issue, or whatever) and have a record of their search history in case they need to replicate their work later. Finally, users get access to the 24/7/365 live help from the Lexis research attorneys!
So what does Lexis Advance look like? Is it really Google-y? Kind of! There’s just one search box, an advanced search option, and a neat and clean screen minus a Google doodle. Users put in the words, names, phrases, or legal terms of art they seek. But on Lexis Advance, unlike Google or standard Lexis, an OR is presumed between words. Google presumes an AND, whereas the standard Lexis search protocol presumes a phrase when two or more words are typed without a connector between them.
Why presume an OR rather than an AND? It casts a bigger net. The algorithm brings up results by frequency of words and proximity, among other parameters, so the most relevant will percolate to the top. The attorney can also place limits on the initial search or narrow down the results later if they get too many.
So with Bloomberg Law-like predictable pricing, a Google-like interface, and Lexis Web’s collection of vetted World Wide Web sites related to law (which is actually free, and everyone can try the beta version at www.lexisweb.com), plus all U.S. primary law (cases, codes, and regulations); forms and secondary materials; jury verdicts; valuation tools; briefs and pleadings; expert witness transcripts, depositions, and curricula vitae; and a full selection of dockets—most everything they should need, plus Shepards for verifying their results—Lexis has made a clear attempt to appeal to the large and growing market of solo and super-small law firms that neither traditional Lexis, Westlaw, WestlawNext, nor Bloomberg Law has effectively conquered.
Smart targeting, Lexis. Smart product too. Can’t wait to see what you offer the other segments of the legal market.
[Carol Ebbinghouse will have an in-depth review of the new Lexis Advance, WestlawNext, and Bloomberg Law in Searcher magazine’s January/February 2011 New Platforms theme issue. —Ed.]