Thursday, February 13, 2014

Westlaw Analytics and eLibraries: Understand More, Improve Recoveries, Create a Non-Billable Zone

Thomson Reuters recently released  the long awaited Westlaw Analytics tool that will ultimately   now available to any subscriber law firm of  30+ attorneys.  In several weeks they will be releasing a new eLibrary platform which enables  subscribers to create and control “non-billable zones.” One product should enable firms to improve cost recovery and the other will help firms abandon or limit cost recovery for any  WestlawNext content they designate. This "odd couple" of developments  are in fact complimentary and both are  powerful tools for helping firms align  with “the new normal.” One provides "big data" insights into  utilization of a major cost center, the other  provides a platform for expanding unfettered access to  custom digital libraries... while also accelerating the migration of firms away from hardcopy books. 
replace the Quickview reporting product. Westlaw Analytics is

Drumroll Please! Introducing Westlaw Analytics  The Release of  Westlaw Analytics merits a drumroll if not fireworks. Westlaw Analytics is light years beyond the old workhorse Quickview which  could  generate a  file of billable and non-billable usage by client, by use, by date. and the retail, discounted or custom defined rates.  But Quickview  was short on actionable details or customizable and actionable insights. Non only is Westlaw Analytics more flexible and customizable than Quickview, but it provides powerful graphical views of the firms research activities. 

The Top 6 Things That Just Got Easier 

1.INVESTIGATING RESEARCH ACTIVITIES If you have ever fielded the " most dreaded call from a partner" asking  "How did an associate rack up that bill?”  Westlaw Analytics will finally enable a Library Director  to answer that question. WA allows you to identify the user, content accessed, search queries, documents printed  time spent and provide a meaningful explanation.

 

Billing Investigation
2. PROACTIVELY MANAGE USE - You can  now set up triggers which will alert you when costs by user or client exceed a custom defined threshold. 


Trend Analysis
3. TRAINING Identify the  associates who need training before they ruin their careers by  accidentally racking up indefensible changes. Conduct an intervention on a bad researcher so they don't become truly terrible researcher. 

4. PRACTICE GROUP AND OFFICE ANALYTICS Ever wonder which offices and practice group are the heaviest users. Where is the heaviest use of excluded content?. Identify offices or practices that are underutilizing the system. Now you can easily run  reports showing the trends by office and practice group.

5. ALERT THE STAKEHOLDERS - Billing partners or practice group managers can receive alerts advising them of the cost of  research  to date on a client or for a practice group. 

6. REQUIRE INFORMATION BEFORE EACH SESSION. There are lots of new features that can be used to customize the collection of data about lawyers and clients before any research is conducted. You can designated certain number as nob-chargeable, you can associate lawyers with practice groups. You can control the info lawyers have to give in order to log into Westlaw.
 

 There is One Caveat  Currently, research session costs are  computed in either retail rates or custom defined rates. Firms that use variable or fixed discounts to compute the client costs will have to wait for that functionality. However  in the meantime they can  take the retail cost and compute the discount on your own.

 According to Kris Gunderson ,Director, Business Operations & Integration. “We have had great feedback from our beta users, and I am very pleased with the foundation that is built and the possibilities this provides in the future, particularly as we continue to integrate our reporting experience with  accounting  systems such as Elite.”  

Even with the  limitation outlined above, this product is light years beyond the old Quickview platform and offers a "big data" view of a sprawling universe of client charges,  price points and user  behaviour. Everyone who has to manage and explain Westlaw spending is about to look a lot smarter. Embrace the “big data!"

Welcome to the Non-Billable Zone

 One of the most positive developments to follow  the introduction of  ”Flat fee billing” in the 1990's  was the creation of  CUIs “custom user interfaces.” The first CUI was the simple “find and print”  function. CUI’s were often IP authenticated to allow lawyers to have unlimited access to certain kinds of content without charging a client. An IP authenticated "Find and print"  CUI  function allows a user to retrieve any document using  any citation recognized by Westlaw (cases, statutes, regs, law reviews, etc) . Over the years, customer defined CUIs were developed for a variety of subsets of data, digital treatises, dockets, SEC filings. Different law firms had different philosophies regarding the type of content should be provided without a “chargeback" to a client or what kind of CUI would serve their needs.



 

IT’S A SUNK COST --- USE IT! While many firms have signed flat fee contracts, they often fail to embrace the logical extension of the contract-- it’s a sunk cost and a fixed cost  so the more you use it the higher your ROI. Flat fee contacts provide an opportunity to create benefits for clients and the firm. Yet firms have often failed to develop a clear strategy to maximize the benefit of these contracts. They continue encouraging lawyers to avoid online research and to use it only after less effiicient strategies have failed.Since a lawyers time is not free there is a cost for encouraging inefficiency that is often overlooked.

Years ago after signing a “flat fee” contract at an  Amlaw 100 firm, colleague  Ron Friedmann and I conducted a study to determine which was cheaper: printing cases from Westlaw or using paralegals to pull the reporters and copy the cases? The study determined that printing cases from Westlaw  was hands down a cost saver for both the client and the firm. Exploiting the flat fee contract can result in the reduction of spending on treatises, codes and reporters. Eliminating print also which results in reduction of the cost of space and staff time for processing materials  ( check in, cataloging ,circulating, shelving).

 Embracing the Future In Historical context, the original West Publishing Company (now owned by Thomson Reuters)  fumbled their entry into the digital world by trying to protect print revenue. The original Westlaw  included  only the headnotes describing the points of law and not the full text of the opinions. You had to go to the print reporter to read the case. This ambivalence allowed Lexis then owned by industrial giant Mead Paper Company  to clobber West the reigning king of legal publishing. It is clear that Thomson Reuters sees the changing  landscape in the legal market and is making no pretense of protecting print. They are moving from content to process and are clearly encouraging subscribers to migrate from print to digital by facilitating the creation of custom eLibraries. Promoting enhanced functionality in eLibraries may also signal a step back from more investment in the Proview eBook platform.

Enter eLibraries Next Month Westlaw Will be giving the administrators of  every WestlawNext account the ability to create and manage their own “non-billable” zones. And the tools are easy to use! Here’s what the eLibrary widgets will offer: 
 
·        The law firm will control the creation,  editing and management of  the eLibrary experience.

·        They require no significant technical investment

·        Users get the enhanced experience provided by WestlawNext, including Global Search, Foldering, Highlighting and Notes

·        Access can be linked to firm intranet or portal environment as with traditional eLibraries.

·        New functionality allows users to toggle directly to eLibrary pages within any Westlaw session.

·        Usage of eLibraries can be tied back to individual users to enhance analytics.

·        UI coloring and messaging clearly signal when they are entering or leaving an eLibrary or non-billable zone. No surprises!

·        Firms make their own decision on using  client/matter to associate with usage.

·        Admins may share pages with entire firm or subsets of users (such as practice groups).

·        Firms can create an unlimited discreet pages.

·        Pages may include key functions or tools, such as KeyCite or Find.

 What does this mean for WL? What does this mean for Customers?

A year ago TR announced that they were  no longer in the content business. Then then they acquired the Practical Law Company workflow platform. They kicked off this year with the announcement that they had appointed the first female President of TR Legal, Susan Taylor Martin. A recent  Law Technology News interview  contains this quote from Martin commenting on the disrupted legal market: “There's tremendous opportunity, but to see that, you've got to give up an attachment to something that's been very good to you in the past,” That something may just be the print publications.

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