10 Reasons Why the Bloomberg Law – DLA Piper Agreement is a Win- Win Deal

10 Reasons Why the Bloomberg Law – DLA Piper Agreement is a Win- Win Deal

Bloomberg Law announced this week that it has signed an agreement with DLA Piper, the world’s largest global business law firm, to bring Bloomberg Law to the desktop of all 1,400 attorneys in DLA’s 25 U.S. offices. Potential implications of this deal for both other large law firms and the legal publishing industry – principally Lexis and Westlaw- are already being argued back and forth.  However, I think that this was a relatively safe win-win deal for both parties. I base my assessment on the following:

  1. No one has claimed that DLA has signed an exclusive use agreement with Bloomberg Law. In other words, DLA has not abandoned its preferred database vendor, presumably Westlaw. Thus, it will continue to have at least 2 database providers to meet its research needs.
  2.  Law firms have switched or threatened to switch preferred vendors for years, in order to obtain better pricing. Steve Lastres in his blog yesterday “3 Geeks and a Law Blog”, in the story entitled: “Bloomberg Law Snags DLA Piper’s US Business”, correctly suggests that one database provider, (presumably Lexis), has lost DLA’s business. However, based on past history, it’s not uncommon for once spurned providers to come back with sweetheart deals to regain favor and become the preferred vendor once again.
  3. Despite claims of Bloomberg Law’s rigidity on pricing and refusal to negotiate, I believe that DLA got a very sweet deal to be the first mega firm to sign on with Bloomberg Law. They will be lauded for their innovation and cost-effective practices if the experiment works. They will not risk much in the unlikely event that the gamble fails. In exchange, Bloomberg received its first (and much needed), acceptance and recognition by law firms that its product is a serious and legitimate challenger to both Lexis and Westlaw.
  4. Again, Steve is correct in his presumption that it unlikely that DLA would maintain the annual budget expense of having 3 legal research databases – given both the cost and the likely accounting nightmare of dedicating 75 budget lines to the databases(1 line per product per office).
  5. Don Jaycox, DLA Piper’s Chief Information Officer, said, “Law firms need to cost effectively deliver great client service in a highly competitive environment….  Plus, Bloomberg’s inclusive pricing model helps us manage costs in a predictable way”. Once again, DLA can use this agreement to make a convincing case to its clients re: its innovation and cost-effectiveness.
  6. Hopefully, DLA did not lose much (if anything), in terms of its resources in the change.     Whenever a firm looks at dropping one its database providers, it should assess any loss of content.  DLA has at least three options. 1) It can supplement its preferred vendor content with Bloomberg Law, 2) it can add additional or missing content from its preferred vendor (preferably at very favorable rates), or 3) it can stay pat.
  7. There is no mention in the agreement about DLA offices outside the US. As the pioneer in the Bloomberg deal (again at presumably very attractive pricing), I’m thinking that DLA will take a wait and see approach before re-negotiating.
  8. What is interesting about the agreement is that it doesn’t mention the length of the contract. My guess is that it is short-term – 1-2 years at most. Hopefully, they have an easy opt-out option if the experiment doesn’t work to their liking.
  9. As I mentioned in my earlier blogs, Bloomberg offers attractive content to supplement, rather than replace Lexis or Westlaw at this time. Low cost multi-disciplinary and multi-user access to the BNA content is certainly attractive to a firm like DLA. Bloomberg also sponsors SCOTUSblog, the highly rated law blog written by lawyers and law students that intensively covers the U.S. Supreme Court of the United States. There is speculation that Bloomberg may be poised to make other acquisitions, particularly with vendors of current third-party agreements with Lexis and Westlaw. The DLA deal gives Bloomberg an opportunity to both showcase these current products and the incentive to pursue other acquisitions.
  10. Bloomberg has a new platform with its unique resident information and pull-down menus that turn traditional search and focus research on its ear. For some at least, this approach is more intuitive than either Lexis or Westlaw. DLA has already previewed this platform, but Bloomberg Law can gain more exposure and valuable user feedback from increased usage at 25 offices. For DLA I’m sure its staff will push training for its users. Then again, they still have their old preferred database provider to fall back on.

This agreement will surely catch the attention of both major law firms and Bloomberg’s competitors- Lexis and Westlaw.  Bloomberg Law has sent a message loud and clear to the legal industry. It’s not going to be business as usual anymore.  Tune in to see how the legal publishing industry and the other major firms respond to this challenge.

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