Shake Out in Low Cost Legal Research
Dear Loislaw Customer
Earlier this week, Loislaw subscribers began receiving letters from Wolters Kluwer advising them that their caselaw research system has been sold to Fastcase. Loislaw will sunset on November 30, 2015. Loislaw subscribers will be transitioned to the Fastcase platform at a price which is equal to or lower than their current cost. In addition, Loislaw subscribers will continue to have access to over 140 Aspen treatises covering a wide range of practice areas including corporate law, intellectual property, family law, real estate, technology.
Both Loislaw subscribers and Loislaw competitors were surprised by the announcement. I am wondering if this signals some larger trends in the market.
Wolters Kluwer Refocusing on the Complex Regulatory Market
Deb Sauer , Executive Director Strategic Communications Legal & Regulatory Solutions U.S. at Wolters Kluwer offered this comment on the sale of Loislaw. “ In the continued evolution of Law & Business, we feel the time is right to further focus our investments in areas providing the highly valued expert interpretations, insight, guidance, and software solutions that will enable customers to enhance their decision quality, drive their workflows, and inform confident outcomes.”
I never quite got the Wolters Kluwer acquisition of Loislaw. Loislaw was never really integrated into their core digital product lines. Wolters Kluwer has always offered sophisticated, high quality content for complex regulatory practices such as tax, securities and antitrust. However they have struggled to find the optimal digital platform. Over the years they have moved their practice libraries from looseleaf print, to cd-rom, to online databases, and then to the much maligned Intelliconnect platform. In 2012 they turned a corner with the release of the RBSource platform which included digital version of the Securities Act Handbook enhanced with workflow tools. Then in 2013 they began offering web enabled topical newsletters and earlier this year they launched the long awaited Cheetah platform to replace Intelliconnect. Cheetah which offers many new features is also flexible, intuitive and device agnostic. In other words, Wolters Kluwer has a level of security in their new digital platform. Maybe Loislaw was a backup platform kept in reserve as an alternate technology platform if Cheetah failed to satisfy the market. Since there is no risk of the regulatory environment becoming less complex, Wolters Kluwer's decision to focus on products which leverage their core strenghs and back away from the commoditized caselaw market makes sense.
Is Fastcase Shaping Up to Be the Real Alternative to Lexis and Westlaw?
Most “low cost” research systems offer basic primary law research. All include federal caselaw and others offer some coverage of state caselaw and statutes.. Fastcase has distinguished itself from the "lower cost" pack by launching with a powerful search engine, unique visualization features and interactive timelines. They have not only continued to add new research features such as the “bad law bot,” but they are bulking up their platform through both strategic alliances and acquisitions. In 2014 Fastcase began offering access to HeinOnline law review articles. Then they purchased the Toplaw drafting software Reed Elsevier. This week they purchased Loislaw. They don’t need the caselaw from Loislaw, so were the Aspen treatises the real selling point? Fastcase states that their license for the Aspen treatises will apply only to legacy Loislaw subscribers. No one has ruled out the possibility of a future expansion of the Aspen titles to all Fastcase subscribers. The addition of both HeinOnline and 140 major legal treatises from Aspen takes Fastcase out of the lower tier market and puts it in the unique market position. I believe they stand alone in offering caselaw enhanced with innovative technology, mobile apps, a growing library of analytical materials and drafting tools at a fixed low price point.
Ed Walters CEO of Fastcase describes Fastcase as being “in it for the long haul. There is less and less of a reason to pay a premium for caselaw research everyday. We offer some of the best research tools supporting some of the best research content.”
Breaking Away—The Future Belongs to the Innovators
Fastcase has 800,000 subscribers and has not raised their prices since their launch. Yet they continue to built out a product which is growing more and like Lexis and Westlaw and looking less like its competitors in the "low cost" market. Lexis and Westlaw exploded their content and their pricing relentlessly in the decades before the 2007 crash. Annual prices escalated at a time when online research costs were easily passed on to clients. Although cost recovery for online research has plummeted, neither Westlaw nor Lexis has retreated from annual price escalations. Bloomberg Law entered the market at time when law firms were hungry for a lower cost alternative, but they entered the market at a price point close to Lexis and Westlaw. BloombergBNA definitely offers quality and innovation, but I believe they overshot the mark on pricing, I believe that pricing has been the major factor slowing the adoption of BloombergBNA by law firms. Is Fastcase slowy growing into a unique market tier that BloombergBNA could have occupied?
Fastcase Is Not Completely Alone
Another interesting start-up which has moved beyond caselaw is Ravel Law. Daniel Lewis, President of Ravel provided his take on the research market. ” Lawyers are increasingly on a level playing field when it comes to access to case law. Tools can no longer be primarily defined by what content they provide. Now we’re entering an era of asymmetric analytics, in which lawyers who leverage new tools to sift through vast amounts of information will have a distinct competitive advantage. Ravel is not focused on selling access to case law, we’re focused on providing Judge Analytics and our other interfaces and analytics that help lawyers quickly find new, unique value from case law.”
Letter to Loislaw Subscribers:
Dear Loislaw Customer
We are reaching out to inform you that Wolters Kluwer Law & Business will sunset its Loislaw product effective November 30, 2015. Wolters Kluwer Law & Business has valued greatly the opportunity to serve you, and supporting your continued success is important to us. To help ensure your primary research needs can continue to be met, we are collaborating with Fastcase so they can offer comparable subscription plans on the Fastcase platform, including Loislaw treatise libraries, at the same or lower prices as your current Loislaw subscription.
Information about your subscription
Wolters Kluwer will maintain Loislaw through November 30, 2015, at which time Fastcase will own and operate the Loislaw brand. Please continue to contact Wolters Kluwer with any questions or support needs through this period. During this time, Wolters Kluwer will send further communication regarding the end of your existing Loislaw contract. If you have any questions, please call 877-471-5632 or email ASPEN-Loislaw-SupportServices@wolterskluwer.com.
During this transition, Fastcase will offer special Loislaw subscriptions, offering nationwide legal research, as well as the Loislaw treatise libraries under special license with Wolters Kluwer, all on the Fastcase legal research service. Fastcase has created grandfathered pricing plans that allow you to continue your current Loislaw library subscriptions, including Loislaw treatise libraries, at the same subscription prices. “Loislaw on Fastcase” combines the comprehensive Loislaw treatise libraries you know and love, with great Fastcase features like the Interactive Timeline data visualization tool, industry-leading mobile apps, Bad Law Bot, and integrations with HeinOnline and Clio.
Other Wolters Kluwer subscriptions
Your other Wolters Kluwer product subscriptions will not be affected. You can continue to count on Wolters Kluwer to provide you with products and solutions that leverage the expert interpretations, insight and guidance that you value and for which we are known and respected.
Loislaw and Fastcase have worked collaboratively to provide a solution that affords the opportunity to meet your needs, and we are working to support a smooth transition for customers who wish take advantage of the Loislaw treatise libraries on the Fastcase platform. You will receive more information from Wolters Kluwer and Fastcase in the coming weeks. In the meantime, to find out more about how to make the transition to Loislaw libraries on Fastcase, please visit http://secure-web.cisco.com/1rpAyKbV788zJBgYdQsJpneDGEQG62QmSgG2vp2SknxpC8ZxhKgToZdMO1iXo2sjMHR0UvK-VsNvYcDD8UzGvZSpkx9hQKHRrIUKVwsV2kbra8hN5YV1FHVkobIVsSsbsRWhU6BnTB1jYmmWfbJ1ucygsL4E1PqMP_HwnDCcQu9GmR2eixl3kvHf9_ulAWZ5B1pntSqU7y4Ik_90vWlxBOlQUb8gpVzYEWEKa2xvo0co/http%3A%2F%2Fwww.fastcase.com%2Floislaw.
We believe this collaboration is the right one for our customers, with Fastcase continuing to invest in and enhance its platform to support those research needs formerly fulfilled through Loislaw.
Greg Samios Ed Walters
President and CEO CEO, Fastcase
Wolters Kluwer Law & Business