Mobile Devices Provide “Training-on-the go” to Busy Attorneys – Part 2 Recent Applications from Lexis and West

December 27, 2011

Lexis/Nexis and West offer few mobile applications compared to the relative promise of the technology.  Lexis/Nexis offers one application, a free CourtLink app which is available for download from iTunes. CourtLink customers can use this app to review recent court dockets, set up Alerts and track activity on the CourtLink site- on demand. This link offers a demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poae_Yd8kBg . While this is a start, perhaps Lexis should consider following up on this app with another one for Public Records such as assets , liens and bankruptcies that would offer the same ability to set up alerts and tracks to monitor developments from anywhere.

In April of 2009, West entered the mobile market place by initiating a mobile version of Black’s Law Dictionary for iPhones available for purchase from iTunes. Their goal was to provide users with the flexibility to get definitions of key legal terms as quickly as possible.

In 2010 West extended that platform with the launch of its iPad application. Users can license the application through an app on iTunes for which you pay a one-time fee.  The application can be searched via free text, alphabetical browsing, or through a search box. When  the attorney locates the definition, he/she can then copy and paste it into the text of documents as needed or bookmark the term for later use.  This past summer also saw the launch of the Google Android version of the Black’s Dictionary.  The Android application provides the same features and functionality as the iOS-based platform.

Next, West increased its presence in the mobile market by venturing into the mobile training arena. WestLegalEdcenter made CLE Mobile available as a free download from the App Store in December of 2009. This application gives attorneys the flexibility to get CLE credit for the first time on their iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. West has recreated its web experience in a mobile application format that includes all the regulatory safeguards that states require, so that users can earn credits as they would with an on-demand program at West LegalEdcenter.  Attorneys can listen to more than 5500 CLE courses wherever they are and whenever it is most convenient. CLE Mobile also gives law firms the ability to make their own CLE and training content mobile with West LegalEdcenter’s in-house training. This option allows law firms to better meet their attorneys’ needs by making their own programming even more flexible and accessible.

In 2010, CLE Mobile released Version 2, which allows users to have access to more powerful options directly from the application. These include the ability to search for programs and delete completed ones. One of the challenges that West faced in developing CLE mobile was sharing revenue with Apple for transactions that took place through their application. West and Apple could not agree on this point, and it resulted in CLE users losing their ability to purchase programs directly through the ITunes site. Instead, they had to purchase and enroll in programs on the West LegalEdcenter website and then access the content through their mobile devices.

Although accessing apps through the iTunes site is certainly familiar, convenient and seamless to iPhone users, I don’t see the absence of this feature significantly impacting usage of mobile devices for training purposes. I think that iTunes  is just another way of delivering content – as opposed to being “the wave of the future”, and my conversations with West on usage trends before and after the change confirm that  mobile training offers enough benefits to challenge traditional training methods. Look for the expansion of applications, features and functionality of this emerging technology as popularity grows and more providers enter the market. I’d also like to hear from readers on what new apps you would like to see from these and other vendors.

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Mobile Devices Provide “Training-on-the go” to Busy Attorneys – Part 1 Overview

December 16, 2011

iPhones, iPads, iTouch  and other mobile devices  have emerged as viable training tools for busy attorneys- whether solo practitioners or members of large firms. This emerging technology offers formidable options to traditional learning tools. Here is an overview of some of the advantages and disadvantages:

ADVANTAGES

  • Easy access at modest cost – Information is available to anyone anywhere. All you need is your device and basic Internet access.
  • Training when you want it and how you want it – Training is available 24/7 at the user’s convenience. Users are not limited to training on specific days or times, or to physically attending classes. Attorneys can learn at their own pace, pause the sessions, bookmark their places, and then resume training at their own convenience.
  • Lower Costs – Mobile devices rely primarily on recorded sessions, so it eliminates the need for a live presenter for programs. Other savings can include travel costs for training (including hotel, airfare, rental car, etc.), cost of time away from the office, and the resultant loss of billable hours.
  • Content – Mobile CLE provides access to more than 5,500 courses, without worry of missing or checked out tapes.
  • Ability to individualize training content – CLE Mobile also gives law firms the ability to make their own CLE and training content mobile.

Obviously, the primary attraction of mobile training devices is convenience – on-the-go and on-demand access – wherever and whenever the user wants. Access to CLE on mobile devices eliminates the need for attorneys to reserve tapes in advance from a lending library and the need to travel to pick up the tape. Features such as the ability to pause, bookmark, and then return to a mobile download allow an attorney to stop his/her training on demand in order to return to the office for a meeting. That can’t be done when physically attending training sessions.

Like other technologies, there are downsides to mobile learning. Chief among them is the lack of a “personal” training experience. Here are the disadvantages:

  • Verbal vs. nonverbal – Lack of an actual person to answer your questions, give feedback or hints to understand the content through body language or nonverbal communication.
  • Less opportunities for socializing or networking – This is a major sidelight of training held at conferences.
  • Boredom factor – Content/presentation possibly less creative and interesting that live training.
  • Expensive – Program costs can vary from $65-$350. Although these costs may be equal or less than conference training costs, they may be steeper than the cost of renting traditional CLE tapes.

Despite these disadvantages, I see real promise for this technology as an alternative to live training and the vagaries of training tapes.  As a Law Librarian, I struggled with the task of getting busy attorneys to attend live training sessions at designated times, as do my peers. Although lures of free food and the opportunity to use billable work as the training project were successful, their training sessions often were interrupted by other demands.

Tune in to part 2 of this blog, where I will discuss the evolution of various mobile training tools from 2009-present.

 

 


Will the Latest Corporate Shakeup be the Last for Thomson Reuters?

December 8, 2011

December 1, 2011 marked the resignation of Thomas Glocer as CEO of Thomson Reuters. While I discussed the recent acquisitions by Bloomberg Law and their impact on the marketplace in my last three blogs, the fates of these two rivals are inextricably linked, so this is a tale of two companies.

Thomson Reuters is the product of the acquisition of the famous Reuters News Service by the Canadian Thomson family in 2007 in a $17.2 billion buyout. The Thomson side brought legal, financial, scientific, and health care resources to the new combination, with a good portion of the legal business coming from its previous acquisition of the West Publishing’s print and Westlaw database products. The Reuters side brought the giant news service and financial data to the table, fueling the expectation that this new combination would effectively rival, if not surpass, Bloomberg as a global financial information provider.

Despite the glowing forecast of 2007, Thomson Reuters has struggled with the financial downturn that hit the markets in 2008. Glocer is being replaced by James Smith, the chief operating officer. Glocer was CEO of Reuters at the time of the takeover and he continued to head the combined operation. Smith came from the controlling Thomson side, so there is obvious speculation that the Thomson family was displeased with Glocer’s attempts to turn around its Markets division, which competes directly with Bloomberg in the sale of financial data, news and analytical tools to those in the financial sector. Particularly disappointing was the rollout of the Eikon, Thomson Reuter’s challenge to the customized Bloomberg “ubiq” ubiquitous terminal. The Eikon roll out was so disastrous that Mr. Glocer took personal responsibility for the markets division, which is responsible for Eikon.

Meanwhile, as Thomson Reuters was struggling with the declining markets and the Eikon problems, Bloomberg was planning the roll out of its Bloomberg Law product.  Among the decisions Bloomberg had to make was what type of platform to use. The easy choice would have been to use the existing Bloomberg customized terminals. However, Bloomberg had to be aware of Thomson Reuters’ problems with Eikon and the reduced demand for the expensive financial products with their customized terminals. These events, combined with its market research showing that the legal market would not return to the old and dark ubiq days, convinced Bloomberg to break with tradition and offer only a web-based platform on its new Bloomberg Law product in 2011.

Perhaps it’s time for Thomson Reuters to take their cue from Bloomberg and migrate from the costly dedicated terminal to a web platform in order to meet the changing needs of its customers. The legal market underwent tremendous changes in platforms between the 1980s and the 1990s, as user demands, technological advances, economic changes and ultimately the practice of law changed.  Legal terminals morphed from huge dedicated stand -alone machines, to small customized boxes dubbed “ubiqs”, to multi-purpose personal computers. Lexis and Westlaw survived the loss of monthly  revenue from equipment and created other revenue streams. Executive turnovers, reduced demand for some of its products, and mergers and changes in divisions have all befallen Thomson Reuters. Maybe this is the time to re-engineer the way its products and services are packaged, delivered, and priced to the financial market. Tune in for the next installment.