Monday, April 18, 2011

The ALM - Lexis Deal: Stop Hyperventilating and Consider A Few Action Items

We have been through drills like this before and this is no doubt, not the last content swap between Lexis and  Westlaw platforms we will face.

While waiting for some word from Lexis on how ALM content will be priced, I began conducting some internal due diligence. These items might be of interest to others.

Action Items
  • Check your firm's most recent Westlaw contract  and  review for a "material change" clause or other clauses regarding the removal of content. 
  • Check your firms' most recent Lexis contract for any language addressing content added during the contact period. However – since this is clearly 3rd party content – I see an "exclusion' coming on. 
  • Request a usage report from Westlaw with an analysis of the last 6 or 12 months of ALM usage from 
    • Identify the ALM content being used (it may surprise you)
    • Identify the users
    • Look at the value of the useas an overall percentage of all Westlaw use. 
The magnitude of the usage or lack thereof will inform upcoming negotiations.

Managing ALM excluded content after it is on Lexis. Peter Charkalis from Onelog reports that Onelog's next upgrade can provide custom warning screens when researchers try to access excluded content from a system such as Lexis or Westlaw. This custom message can direct resarchers to an alternative platform e.g. the LJP treatises or ALM news rather than using the content on Lexis.

Reviewing the ALM usage report triggered a series of questions regarding ALM's digital strategy which I have outlined below in an open letter to ALM. Although we may not have answers immediately - just posing these questions may assist library leaders in assessing the addition of ALM content to their Lexis contracts.

  Dear ALM Executives,

 Let me first state how much I appreciate your recent efforts to reach out to many "thought leaders" in the library community to discuss a variety of digital strategy issues. I was willing to sit back and wait for ALM's strategy to unfold but the recent sudden switch of ALM content from Westlaw to Lexis compels an airing of the unsettled ALM issues.

ALM currently has at least 3 digital platforms: the online research platform, the ALM media news platform and the Law Journal Press treatise platform. These all seem to function as stand alone platforms and don't integrate with each other..

So here are my questions.

  •  Does ALM plan to have a robust, integrated platform including ALM news sources, newsletters, treatises and research analytics in the foreseeable future so we can direct most of our use to you and not a 3 party? 
  • Why doesn’t ALM at least upgrade their news platform to provide custom alerts? This functionality has been around for decades. There are very few news products around that don't allow custom alerts. Is this being planned? (Don't look now but relative newcomer Law 360 has just released a custom alerts component).
  • Does ALM plan to load a complete archive of news publications for subscribers to those news sources? If yes when? 
  • Is there any content that will remain exclusively available on Lexis and not available from any ALM platform for the foreseeable future? 
 For those of us who are responsible for providing our firm's lawyers with the best content while controlling costs and reducing redundant purchasing of content, the absence of a long term  ALM strategy creates a special challenge.I assume I can speak for my colleagues when I say we all look forward to learning about ALM's digital strategy.


  1. Jean, You are right on the money with this post. This could be directed to many legal content vendors. How often do we feel that the strategic vision (if there is one) for legal publishers and other content providers never seems to include the interests or needs of their customers? Apparently in a niche market, customers are an afterthought.

  2. I agree with Jean on all points. I checked out subscriber agreement but alas no calsue re/materials change in content by West is in ours. I'll be looking to get that language in it when we renegotiate. Furthermore, in contacting ALM I have found that they are very open to setting up subscriptions to the digital versions of their journals and the price is much less costly than what Lexis has offered to me.