Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Improbable Rise of Law360: What Lawyers Could Learn And Its Not Just the News!

If anyone had asked me in 2006 if there was room in legal publishing for a new suite of topical current  awareness newsletters I would have said "no." BNA, Andrews, Mealys. Warren  and a host of other super-specialty newsletters had left no niche of law lie fallow.

And I would have been dead wrong! I am not easily confounded. My first  reaction to the success of Law360  was “how did they do that?”. My second reaction is “why didn’t I think  of that?” But the story of Law360 provides an interesting model of contrarian  success and maybe even a model that the legal industry could learn from.

Common wisdom would suggest that launching a successful legal newsletter requires:
•    Knowledge of the law
•    A competitive analysis of existing legal newsletters
•    Big law connections
•    Venture Capital
•    Focus Groups
•    A Booming economy when your customers are awash in cash.
•    Competitive (conservative) pricing

If you agreed with any of these assumptions, you would be wrong.

Founder Marius Meland: “I Just Love News”

Law360 is the brainchild of Marius Meland.  Meland has been in love with the news business all his life. He grew up in Norway and published his first newspaper when he was 7 years old. “The Running Post” was published in three languages English, Italian and Norwegian. It was a kid’s paper that covered things as
Marius Meland
diverse as his love of dinosaurs or a local store opening. He later studied journalism at the University of Oregon and then worked as a reporter and global desk editor at Dow Jones, then a Senior Editor at Forbes, then the managing editor at technology research firm eMarketer. He  left journalism and became a vice president at AllianceBernstein, and  then a management consultant to international fund executives at Global Insight.

But his missed his first love…. The news. He quit  his consulting job and with $6,000 dollars in the bank he sat in his apartment and dreamed up a newsletter which covered the expanding  field of  Intellectual Property, called IP Law Bulletin which launched in October 2003. He formed a company called  Portfolio Media.
Meland  escaped the solitude of his apartment by writing at a local Starbucks. One day in December 2004 he noticed another patron who was reading a Swedish Newspaper. Magnus Hoglund, who was Swedish, was a recent Columbia business school grad who would become his partner. They transformed IP Law Bulletin and the security and bankruptcy titles which followed it into a rebranded product known as  Law360 in 2006.

How Far They Have Come -- Readership
As of April, 2013  Law360’s  paid  readership   topped 150,000, up  50,000 in just  nine  months.   Meland reports that 100% of the AmLaw 100 firms  subscribe to  Law 360.  The company’s data also shows that more lawyers are reading more articles across the Law360 Platform. Almost 2,000 organizations including law firms, corporate legal departments and government agencies subscribe to  Law360

 Coverage In 10 years Meland has expanded the reach of Law360 from his home based newsroom to a national network of 11  news bureaus . The Headquarters newsroom is located in an “industrial chic”  space in lower Manhattan which was a former home to Andy Warhole’s Factory circa 1973. They have bureaus in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, Houston, Dallas, Philadelphia, Wilmington, San Francisco,San Diego and Miami.

The Law360 Newsroom
The Method They have developed a proprietary electronic system for tracking and mining federal litigation .They download  all Pacer activities and continuously scrape the Pacer  website every 30 minutes. They filter 12,000 judicial activities a day  and have  trained the newsroom staff to look for complaints involving companies and issues of interest to business lawyers. They also take a highly competitive approach to  beating their rivals. Meland claims they beat the competition by 1 to 2 days for many stories. They continually review what the competitors are covering and benchmark their victories when they post the first story on a significant case.Wolters Kluwer recently launched  their Daily Reporting Suite of newsletters  which appears to be positioned to compete directly with Law360.

Law360 provides some coverage of state courts, but state courts have more inconsistent digital coverage and require a different methodology for identifying significant filings, settlement and opinions.

Recently they have created  advisory panels of  more than 250 top attorneys  who help pinpoint the hot button issues which are emerging in their practice areas, before the issues are in the headlines.

Deconstructing Success – How Did They Do It?

The “ Apple” Aesthetic   Meland  is  a big admirer of the Steve Jobs design aesthetic. He likes lots of white space combined with easy and intuitive  navigation.  Side Bars highlight the names law firms and companies mentioned in the issue.

Selling Awareness Meland really views Law360 as a newswire. He doesn’t offer exhaustive analysis, instead he offers a sort of “stream of conscious” awareness. His goal is to assure lawyers that they know all the important developments in their practice area. They can scan the newsletter and understand the major developments of the day and  see if their clients or key competitors are mentioned in any stories in just a few seconds.

The Secret Formula – Make Your Readers the Star. This is my personal take on Law360’s success. Law360 has become a  kind of marketing platform where practitioners  can shine. Each issue prominently highlights the names of firms mentioned in stories. Over the past few years new “lawyer centric”  features have evolved including interviews with practitioners, lawyer and law firm rankings, and opportunities for practitioners to publish their own analytical articles which will be read by General Counsel and their peers. Law360 appeals to the natural inclination of lawyers to see their names in lights and the increasing competitive need for lawyers  to brand themselves.

Price More Than What the Market with Bear. Meland is very confident in the value of Law360. He never shied away from demanding a high price.  Law360 price increases have been well above the rate of inflation. Many Private Firm Law Library Directors do a double take at Law360s Budget ripping price increases. Meland insists that while  the price has gone up,  firms are reaping the benefit of the ever expanding volume of stories, special features and new topical areas.  Law360 now offers newsletters for  20 practice areas, 8 industries and 6 jurisdictions, a  total of  34  newsletters. Today they have 150 employees in 11 cities with $20 Million in sales.

Acquired by Lexis  - Now What?
Law360 was acquired by LexisNexis on March 20 2012 for an undisclosed amount. According to Liz Mason,  Vice President for Legal News at LexisNexis  LexisNexis is embracing Law360 into their overall product strategy.
Our plans have three key components:
1.    Leverage LexisNexis resources, such as Courtlink, Statenet and Knowledge Mosiac, to provide fast information about new events in the litigation, legislative and regulatory space to the Law360 newsgathering operation
2.    Integrate the highly-regarded Law360 coverage into new and existing offerings such as Lexis Advance and Lexis Practice Advisor.  Customers tell us that they value the ability to move easily from the news story to the original source document and guidance provided by related LexisNexis products
3.    Expand Law360 coverage into areas of interest to our customers.

Coming to Lexis Advance. Law360 headlines are available on the Lexis Advance carousel.  Law360 content will be made available with the next release of Lexis Advance for Law360 Platform customers. 

New Products Up Next 
According to Meland Law360 is launching a number of new titles this year, including coverage of tax, capital markets and the aerospace & defense industries, and will continue to look at ways of enhancing existing coverage. They also plan to provide more original coverage of additional state courts.  In the past year alone, coverage of policy/regulatory issues has increased by 130%, primarily by designating more senior reporters to cover these areas. Articles containing analysis have increased by more than 200%.

Did they succeed because of the great recession rather than despite it?

Law360 found fertile soil for growth in the nexus between lawyers’ competitive “need to know” and the crushing professional insecurity triggered in the wake of “the Great Recession.” The entire legal profession was facing a crisis of confidence. Law firms were collapsing, partners were being turned out on the street,  clients were rebelling and along comes a platform of newsfeeds that offers a bright beacon of hope. Law360 bloomed, just when  every lawyer needed nothing more than to feel smart about the competition and smart about their clients without a huge investment of time. Best of all Law360 was the first publication to prominently display the names of firms mentioned in stories. Lawyers wanted to know the news, but more than that they wanted to know which law firms were making the news. Even more than that they wanted to see their own name on the front of Law360.

Whether by design or accident, Law360  appears to have executed  a brilliant but contrarian plan to leverage the crisis of confidence which was shaking the legal profession.  Yes Law360  provided the news, but what lawyers were really buying was the prospect of  exposure and the "holy grail" of business development-- a new client!

Related Stories:
A Lexis Law360 Deal: The Race For Content Continues
Lexis Announces  Acquisition of  Law360

2 comments:

  1. Outstanding article. My patrons speak very highly of this resource. Linked PDFs to court documents are a huge benefit. I was skeptical for many years, but this is now a cornerstone current awareness tool. LEO, Madison, WI

    ReplyDelete
  2. Is the price so high no one will dare say it?

    ReplyDelete