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Thomson Announces Firm360 for Legal Business Development
by
Posted On May 9, 2005
The legal market group within The Thomson Corp. has announced a new service designed to give law firms key market and competitive intelligence to aid their business development efforts. Firm360 (http://www.firm360.com) is a Web-based application that combines customizable content aggregated from across Thomson (including Thomson Financial, Thomson Gale, NewsRoom from Dialog, and Westlaw) with tools to streamline client development tasks. It lets users monitor and gather information about current and prospective clients and generate PDF reports in a fraction of the time previously required. Firm360 is currently being alpha tested by some key customers; it uses a preliminary subset of content. It will generally be available to the market with its planned full complement of content in July 2005. The new service marks the second major Thomson initiative this year to offer an integrated research tool that aggregates content from multiple Thomson units.

As the name implies, Firm360 is designed to provide a full 360-degree view of the internal and external dynamics affecting a law firm’s practice—their clients and related businesses and industries, as well as their competition. The service provides easy access to customizable report-building tools, litigation trend monitoring services, and analytics that measure and benchmark legal activity and market share by business, industry, and law firm (and even by a particular attorney). The service uses artificial intelligence technology to mine and extract facts, create metadata, and enable data mapping and analytics. It employs the Dialog company authority file to aggregate company name variants and company subsidiaries.

Silvia Coulter, co-founder of the Legal Sales and Service Organization, noted that law firms are building the internal infrastructures they require to operate in the most effective and efficient business manner possible. “This keen business focus underscores the increased need for market and business intelligence tools to support the growth within firms’ industry and practice groups,” Coulter said. “Firm360 is the first service to recognize the new demands of law firm client retention and growth and new business development.” She also commented that Firm360 could serve as the thread to tie together a firm’s separate departments—marketing, finance, IT, and information retrieval—to work as a team.

Charles Vanek, director of product development for Firm360, said that Thomson will initially market the product to the top 300 to 400 U.S. law firms. It will be sold by Thomson FindLaw. The company expects to offer it as an all-you-can-eat subscription model, but pricing details are not yet available. At a later point, it may be offered with pay-as-you-go pricing for smaller law firms. Coulter said she could see it appealing to mid-market firms as well as specialty boutique practices. “It’s a good way to stay competitive,” she remarked.

Thomson Pharma was the first integrated research tool from a market division of The Thomson Corp. that drew upon content from other groups. Thomson Pharma, which launched in January 2005, draws from the complete range of Thomson Scientific databases as well as content from other Thomson groups (including news from NewsEdge, company information from Thomson Financial, and products from the Healthcare group). For this product, Thomson did a great deal of data mapping and editorial integration to allow for the contextual presentation of diverse information resources.

Vanek indicated that the core fact extraction technology in Firm360 is extensible and thus could be applied to design additional Thomson applications. For example, working with Westlaw content, an application could analyze jury verdicts and award amounts. He said future developments would be based on what customers say they want.

While some industry analysts see the model of content plus software in an integrated research tool to be the future for traditional information providers, it’s not clear how profitable this might be. Long-time industry expert Stephen Arnold shared these comments:

The question is, “Can software+content generate revenues fast enough to offset the decline in revenue from high-priced content aimed at market niches?” Professional publishing has existed to deliver ‘must have’ information at often very high subscription fees. Thomson, VNU, Reed Elsevier, and the other professional publishing giants are scrambling to find a way to generate sustainable revenue from ‘nice to have’ product offerings. Will these new software+content spin money like the last generation of products? What’s different today from 10 years ago, is that lawyers, accountants, and other professionals have other ways to get ‘must have’ information.

To me, professional publishing in print and electronic forms is a different business from software. Software’s development cycles are different from print cycles. The dependencies on technology are different. The service and support demands are different. This means the economics and drivers are different. The trajectory of Firm360 and similar software+content initiatives will be interesting for researchers to observe and exciting for stakeholders to experience.

By the way, providing a “360-degree view” has proven to be a popular product concept and product name recently. A few examples are the recently launched Yahoo! 360, Media360º from Informix, and the forthcoming Xbox 360. Technorati, the blog search engine, now has a 360 Tag (category name). Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) says its enterprise search lets companies have a 360-degree view of their information, and Hummingbird says its Enterprise suite creates a 360-degree view of enterprise content.

With the upcoming launch of Firm360, Thomson clearly hopes law firms want to view their businesses the 360-degree way—and are willing to pay for the convenience and analytical capabilities.

Firm360 Content
[Content from Thomson Financial is marked TF]

Corporate Profile and Financial Information
Executive Affiliations [D&B]
Hoover’s Company Profiles
Company Summary of Deals
Gale Company Profiles [Thomson Gale]
Company Directory [Westlaw]
Business Description [TF]
Major Shareholders (Ownership) [TF]
Corporate Family Trees [TF]
Extel (International companies) [TF]
Joint Ventures [TF]

Corporate Disclosure (Market Information)
Secretary of State Filings [Westlaw]
M&A Reports [TF]
Worldscope (International Companies) [TF]
Disclosure—Business Filings with SEC [TF]

Legal Information [Westlaw]
Civil Lawsuit Records (Key Counties and States)
Jury Verdicts and Settlements [various third-party providers]
Andrews Litigator Reporters
Recent Dockets (Federal)
Five-Year Docket History (Federal and Key States)
Five-Year Case History (Federal and State)
Representative Firms and Attorneys (Company and Industry)

News
Legal news from U.S. newspapers
General news—Full text of daily newspapers [Dialog NewsRoom]
New York Times—Full text (5-year archive)
Thomson Financial News [TF]

Investment
First Call Earnings [TF]
Quotes (Datastream) [TF]
Investext PDF (Analyst Reports) [TF]
Insider Sentiment (Buy/Sell Chart) [TF]


Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.


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