Bloomberg Law is moving up

according to the Heard on the Street column in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Data Don’t Add Up for Thomson Reuters.”  From the story:

 a survey of legal-information customers by Claudio Aspesi of Sanford C. Bernstein in January found that 61% of respondents had a subscription to Bloomberg Law, up from 36% the year before. And some respondents said Bloomberg Law was getting closer to offering a breadth of data needed to completely replace a subscription to Westlaw or rival Reed Elsevier’s Lexis-Nexis.

Thomson Reuters in the news

From a Wall Street Journal report:

Thomson Reuters Profit Jumps 93%

. . . WestlawNext, which has been sold to over 24,000 customers since its launch in early 2010 and is helping to offset downward pressure stemming from continuing weakness in business from large law firms. Legal revenue increased 9% to $843 million for ongoing businesses and before currency adjustments.

And this from a story in yesterday’s Financial Times, “Thomsons grow restless over Reuter’s progress,” (p. 17, by David Gelles and Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson).

. . . the company’s focus is largely on its Eikon platform, which was designed as a rival to the Bloomberg terminal.  Outside observers acknowledge that Eikon was well conceived. “Eikon is a fantastic idea and if they have time it will go far, ” said [Douglas B. Taylor, managing partner at Burton-Taylor International Consulting].  “It won’t be a Bloomberg killer, but it will reset the bar for Thomson Reuters.”

Thomson Reuters: Westlaw sales up, but print declines dragging down profits

From today’s Financial Times (p. 16), “Thomson Reuters raises revenue outlook”

“The professional division . . . saw strong subscription revenues in its large legal business, WestLaw, but further declines in its high-margin print products, dragging operating profits in legal down 6 per cent.

The new WestLawNext product . . . had been sold to more than 9,000 customers, double its initial expectations,” according to Tom Glocer, chief executive of the financial and professional information group.

Thomson Reuters to Cut Law-Unit Jobs

The Wall Street Journal, Friday, December 4, 2009, p. B9

“Thomson Reuters to Cut Law-Unit Jobs”

By Jerry A. DiColo

Thomson Reuters . . . said . . . it will cut 240 jobs in its legal businesses . . .

. . . legal has been a relatively weak performer, hurt by layoffs and cost cutting at law firms.

The company’s third-quarter revenue fell 4% as it began to feel the effects of slowdowns in subscriptions to its legal and financial-services products.

. . .

New article on West Publishing

From the November 2009 issue of Twin Cities Business:  “Thomson Reuters’ Brain,” by Dave Beal

The Eagan business that was once West Publishing now supplies its parent company with the intellectual firepower to outmaneuver Bloomberg and LexisNexis in the financial and legal content wars.

Lede:

There may be no more concise way to sum up the changed nature or ambitions of the former West Publishing Company than what Roger Martin says:  “We are sort of the next generation of Google — without the garbage — for professionals.”

The article discusses how successful the legal division is for the company:

Legal . . . is just one of seven primary business units . . . , but it’s a big contributor to the bottom line.  In 2008, it accounted for 27 percent of Thomson Reuter’s $ 13.4 billion in revenue and 39 percent of its operating income. . . .   In the first quarter of 2009, the legal unit had an operating margin of 32.1 percent versus 20.7 percent for the entire company. . . .

The article goes on to discuss the work of the company’s many “information technologists” and quotes chief scientist Peter Jackson on “the right balance of natural and artificial intelligence is a product-development key.”

One such product is ResultsPlus, which I have found extremely useful at time.  Acccording to the article,

ResultsPlus is built on machine learning and natural language processing, . . . but also central to its effectiveness is that it uses the primary search results — those guided by the user — to shape the secondary search. (The “metadata” fed into the secondary search also include “West key numbers,” . . . ).

Other sections of the article include:

Thomson Sells Reuters and Vice Versa

An Edge on LEXISNEXIS?

Westlaw’s war with LexisNexis has shifted back and forth for a generation, since a version of LexisNexis launched in 1973, two years ahead of Westlaw.  Lately, the clash is tilting in Westlaw’s favor.

Battling BLOOMBERG: Terminals, News, and Datafeeds

The article concludes:

Given potential growth in emerging markets and more opportunities being generated by Jackson’s R&D group, [Peter] Warwick [CEO of Thomson Reuters Legal] puts the annual revenue potential of the legal division alone at $ 14.3 billion — four times Thomson’s Reuters Legal’s revenues in 2008.

But growth will depend on how adept the company is at continuing to add value to its massive collections of data.  Google searches, after all, are free; Thomson Reuters is a Google for professionals who are willing to ante up for it.  As the company . . . has discovered, information itself is merely a commodity in the information age.  Information as a service — infinitely searchable, sortable, and customizable — is what’s in demand.

Free resources: will they ever measure up?

Using the terminology of “hooks” instead of Tinkerbells, Bob Berring offers his opinion on commercial legal products, government web endeavors and free legal resources in a video posted here to a Thomson Reuters blog Legal Current: http://legalcurrent.com/2009/10/29/berring-on-free-legal-information/

I agree that the market for editorialized legal resources is something that will propel West and Lexis (and new-kid-on-the-block Bloomberg) into the future.  I also hope that pioneers like LII, Tim Stanley at Justia.com and Carl Malamud at PublicResource.org, and those who follow suit, will continue to take free resources to places and in directions we might not even be able to think of right now…straight on till morning.

A brief comment on the video from Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, a group who has been providing free access to legal resources for almost two decades can be found here.

In this Economy….Thomson Reuters profit doubles

As you mull over the latest West invoice, sip on this:

According to a story in The Age, “Thomson Reuters Corp., the news and data provider created by a merger last year, said second-quarter profit more than doubled, fueled by cost savings from the deal and demand for the Westlaw legal service.”

Notable: “Revenue in the professional division, including legal and tax products, gained 4 per cent, excluding the impact of currency translations.”

Westlaw rises to legal publishing fame by selling free information

From the Minneapolis City PagesWestlaw rises to legal publishing fame by selling free information,” by Erin Carlyle.

West makes its money by selling free, public information — specifically, court documents — to lawyers. On this simple model, the company raked in $3.5 billion in revenue last year, placing it on a par, sales-wise, with retail giant Abercrombie and Fitch. But its operating profit margin really impresses: At a whopping 32.1 percent, West outpaces that of tech giants like Google (19.4 percent), Amazon (3.4 percent), and eBay (20.8 percent). Westlaw excels at one simple task: saving lawyers time by making legal information more readily accessible. The company charges a firm of six to ten lawyers as much as $30,000 a year to access its state and federal databases. But since attorneys’ time is worth a lot of money, the service pays for itself. After all, the more work they can do, the more money they can make.

How did it do this?  According to the story, by following these eight rules:

Rule 1: Find a niche with growth potential

Rule 2: Organize information to make it useful

Rule 3: The internet is a distribution channel — not a product

Rule 4: Turn words into math

Rule 5: Separate the signal from the noise

Rule 6: Computers can’t do everything

Rule 7: Treat content like patented material

Rule 8: Print’s not dead, it just needs online help

Thomson Reuters – at least someone is making money

Two items in the Companies & Markets section of today’s Financial Times:

Thomson Reuters profits rise (p. 15)

and

Thomson Reuters shine after merger (p. 17)

The professional operations — legal, tax and accounting, scientific and healthcare — almost all produced stronger top-line growth and some steep margin improvements . . .

Data on Chinese Legal System and Law Schools

Steve Roses and Chang Wang of  Thomson Reuters recently offered a Webinar on the Chinese Legal System and their WestlawChina database. As part of their presentation, they reported the following information about China:

1986 = 989,409 civil cases

2007 = 5,333,546 civil cases

 

40,000 laws and regulations issued since 1978.

 

Over 800 international arbitral awards each year.

 

143,000 attorneys in 2008 (up from 40,000 in 1993)

 

Lawyers per population

China  1:8.500

U.S. 1:300

 

Over 630 law schools and law departments with 244,121 law students.

 

12% pass rate for the Chinese bar exam.

 

Unfortunately, they did not provide sources for the information, but it does paint an interesting picture of the legal system and legal education in China. Many thanks to Steve and Chang for sharing their expertise and data.