Once upon a time, not so long ago, one needed a special Bloomberg terminal to access its legal and proprietary business information. More recently, new legal subscribers were given a piece of hardware* to protect their identity and security online, which required the subscriber's fingerprint to verify identity at login. Alas, experienced legal researchers have bad memories of dedicated terminals-from huge loveseat-sized Siemens workstations of the late 1970s to the boxy little red and black UBIQ terminals of the 1980s, with their black screens and glowing cursors. Today's Bloomberg Law subscribers have the choice to rely solely on their IDs and passwords for their security. The black screen is also history. Novel concepts-for Bloomberg.
At the helm of Bloomberg Law is an attorney/information user, who has practiced law both in a law firm and as in-house counsel in the U.K. Perhaps that is why Bloomberg Law has taken a different approach to the market-a client-driven approach. For one thing, as a practitioner and client, Constantin Cotzias understands that clients don't want to pay for information services that should be considered overhead for law firms, anymore than they would want to pay for the subscriptions to looseleaf services that attorneys use in their work. The monthly fee for each user is $450 per user per month. Period. "Eat all you want!"
Cotzias believes that it is a very competitive premium rate for the information and analysis available. Users not only have access to primary legal information, but legal analysis and organizational tools to cluster legal topics into key points of law. Sound familiar? Bloomberg has added more than 250 full time attorneys to build the added value for users. In addition to all of this, Bloomberg provides its exclusive and formidable business, news, and financial information to its legal users. When you think that the brokers are each paying $20,000 per year for their Bloomberg terminals, the business, news, financial, and the proprietary Bloomberg market info, the $450 legal rate sounds like a bargain.
Law firm librarians with Bloomberg Law have the ability to search for current and potential clients in a particular industry, check them against international business, news, dockets, and financial information sources, and arm the rainmakers with information that will impress the potential client. "Did the new Taiwan tax initiative hit your sub-division hard? We have been tracking it for a while and believe that a [restructuring or fiscal year change or whatever] might take a bit of the burden off..." Or, perhaps the conversation might go, "I noticed that your subsidiary filed that copyright action in England yesterday. As I perused the documents I thought of a similar case our London office had won before that same judge and wondered whether you had considered...."
Heck, when I worked at one law school I helped with prospect research, and would have killed to access Bloomberg Law's files, which include the name of every judge and attorney, with links to a database that pulls up that person's alma maters, his or her holdings, corporate and non-profit boards they served on, potential conflicts, and case histories.
Only Bloomberg's proprietary information service has the depth for integrating law practice with business development, client development, competitive intelligence, and company reports-the "extra" information that will impress clients. Librarians are uniquely capable of maximizing the information weapons at their disposal and Bloomberg Law has a lot of new arrows to add to their quivers.
On top of having U.S. primary law, news, and financial information, Bloomberg Law has dockets, complaints, briefs and judgments for a growing number of U.S. jurisdictions, and is the exclusive provider of United Kingdom High Court dockets, complaints, and judgments.
Bloomberg is moving fast to add ever more features. It offers a choice of natural language or Boolean searching, is menu driven, and you can create your own clusters of databases in your workspace for ease of use. It is adding annotations to its codes in various jurisdictions, in addition to its ever-growing Bloomberg Digest topics and points of law.
The system has a unique way to securely share search results and documents, including my own notes and annotations on them, and I can collaborate with others on strategy, arguments, quotes to insert into a document, etc. It sure beats emailing or scanning links and documents-which is not secure at all.
I had been beta testing Bloomberg Law a while ago, and didn't feel it was quite ready for prime time. Bloomberg has worked very hard to incorporate my suggestions, and some really great ideas from its own attorneys and other talented information professionals. Its editorial enhancements, analysis, and other secondary material developed by attorneys for attorneys are coming along strong.
I will be doing an in-depth evaluation of Bloomberg Law in Searcher magazine soon and look forward to giving a much deeper analysis of the software, the authority, and comprehensiveness of the primary sources and other services. In a year when WestlawNext was introduced, and LexisNexis is expected to announce incredible new features and search options, this is indeed an interesting time. I hope you like change as much as I do, because this market is in revolution, not evolution.
* See Robert Ambrogi's description of the "doohickey" with photos at http://www.lawsitesblog.com/2010/02/bloomberg-law-biometric-doohickey.html