Thomson Reuters’ Mobile CLEAR Takes Public Records Searching to a New Level

April 16, 2012

CLEAR is the next generation version of the investigative tool, AutoTrackXP, which has over a decade of history in the public records market. CLEAR launched to the law enforcement market in 2008 as ChoicePoint CLEAR (Consolidated Lead Evaluation and Reporting). In late 2008, Thomson Reuters acquired CLEAR to aid investigations within many disciplines. For most investigative use cases in law firms, they offer Westlaw PeopleMap as part of a larger legal research offering. Westlaw and WestlawNext are available in mobile versions today as well. Here are some links that show demos of CLEAR’s unique features: https://clear.thomsonreuters.com/clear_home/mobile.htm                http://thomsonreuters.com/products_services/legal/legal_products/a-z/peoplemap/

Traditionally, public records databases have offered access to key information: people and private and public business locators, assets (real estate, motor vehicles, watercraft, and aircraft), licenses, filings (corporation, UCC, civil and criminal), court records (bankruptcies, foreclosures, marriages and divorces, judgments and liens), and sanctions (health care providers, OSHA inspection reports, etc.). While CLEAR provides similar coverage, its mobile capabilities are what set it apart from its competitors. LexisNexis for example, offers only one mobile 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. Right now, it doesn’t offer the capability to access other important kinds of public records information, nor does it offer access through any other mobile devices other than the Apple brand. In contrast, CLEAR ENHANCED Mobile has enhanced mobile capability for access to data on a HTML5 supported smartphone, while CLEAR CLASSIC Mobile works from most smartphones with Internet browsing access. You can also access CLEAR on an IPAD or tablet, just as you would with a full web browser on a laptop or desktop computer.  

While I’m excited by this development in mobile technology, I would like to see more transparency on the part of Thomson. I made several attempts to get a ball park estimate of pricing for CLEAR, for both a single attorney user and for equipping an entire law firm. Thomson’s response was: “As for pricing as a whole, each customer’s needs and usage differ greatly, making it impossible to quote one particular price for the product. We work closely with our customers to develop a subscription plan that works for them based on their specific needs and business model”. Neither was I able to get a definitive answer on the impact (if any), of mobile technology on increasing their customer’s billable revenue. Thomson was equally vague on how the available content of the product differs for investigators and attorneys – other than the fact that investigators have access to complete social security numbers and attorneys don’t.

Meanwhile, I’d like to see even more applications for accessing legal resources using mobile devices of all types – particularly those originating from LexisNexis. As users, what apps would you like to see? Let me know- I’d love to hear your ideas.

 


Thomson Reuters v. Bloomberg BNA – Two Titans Continue to Duke it out

February 28, 2012

This month, both Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters announced the release of new products/services.  Not the blockbuster news that some of us were waiting for–the acquisition of “The Financial Times” by Thomson Reuters that would be a game changer in its competition with Bloomberg,  or a mega deal by Bloomberg BNA that would follow up the  DLA –Piper Agreement, and prove that deal  it wasn’t a fluke. No, the developments were more subtle, but still important.

Thomson Reuters led off by announcing the release of Datastream Professional, their new global financial research and analysis tool. Datastream was created in response to recent global financial and economic events (such as the debt crisis), and the need for research and analysis to support investment processes to meet these new challenges. Meanwhile, four days later on February 21, Bloomberg BNA announced that they had entered into a new partnership with Georgetown Law Continuing Legal Education (CLE) allowing both parties to provide high-quality continuing education programs for the legal marketplace. Their first product offers all 13 sessions of the sold-out November 2011 Georgetown Advanced eDiscovery Institute to those attorneys who were unable to attend the live event. It includes CLE credits for attorneys, and the option to purchase single session, 4-session bundles, or a 13 session bundle which encompasses the entire two-day program.

What is the significance of these moves?  For Thomson Reuters, Datastream follows in the footsteps of the disappointing rollout of Eikon (their version of the Bloomberg ubiq customized terminal), so its release can be seen both as a direct challenge to Bloomberg’s financial services products, as well as an attempt by them to recover from the Eikon failure, which contributed to the resignation of Thomas Glocer as CEO. The good news is that, Thomson Reuters has apparently learned from their Eikon mistakes, deciding to scrap the idea of customized terminals (as Bloomberg did for their own legal product), in favor of flexible access through its own secure, web-based solution, iPad, mobile devices or within Microsoft Office, allowing users to get information when, where and how it most convenient for them. This decision frees up users from their desks and their ubiqs and opens the door to countless new users.  In addition, Professionals’ own proprietary data can also be used alongside third party data, making it a more open product than Eikon. While it’s too early to gauge the success or failure of Datastream, an interesting question comes to mind: What will happen to Thomson Reuters if Datastream turns into another Eikon disaster?  My guess is that with its improvements, Datastream won’t turn into another Eikon disaster. Thomson Reuters describes its product as “a powerful tool that integrates economic research and strategy …, by combining the world’s largest historical financial database, with critical real-time market data, global news from Reuters and powerful analytical tools – all within the one solution”. It also claims that Datastream Professional “makes it easier to identify global developments and target the right assets, sectors and countries to invest in” and that “the platform’s powerful search tool provides links to relevant content, allowing the user to easily navigate and explore the range of data whether news, indices, analytics or macroeconomics. “. Powerful boasts, but I think that Thomson will have to deliver on them –or else we will see even more heads roll and more organizational changes.

In Bloomberg BNA’s case, their new alliance seems less risky than the Thomson Reuters venture- at least on paper. I see no potential down sides, and nothing to really lose.  While not as headline grabbing as the DLA deal, this new agreement is a smart move for them for several reasons: 1) It strengthens Bloomberg BNA with some needed content from a trusted and known source, in order to make them more competitive with rivals, Lexis and Westlaw, 2) The availability of live continuing education programs, OnDemand archives of audio webinars and video webcasts bolsters Bloomberg BNA presence in the remote learning market for CLE. 3) This partnership premiers and showcases their new platform that allows for the hosting of remote learning programs , thus boosting Bloomberg’s stock as both a technological innovator and a significant player in the CLE market.

What will happen next?  My guess is that the next battlefields between these giants will be in media, with “The Financial Times”, potentially “The Wall Street Journal”, and third-party content with expiring contracts with Lexis and Westlaw as the attractive targets.  Both Thomson and Bloomberg have the financial resources, the interest and the capability to wage war for these media assets. The battle will be exciting – no matter who wins.  One thing is certain, the drama between these two competitors will continue. Meanwhile, fasten your seat belt for the ride. It just might get bumpy.


When a Search is Not a Search- Part 2 – Traditional Catalogs vs. Google Books

February 23, 2012

In part 1 of my blog, I discussed some of the limitations traditional online catalogs pose for attorneys in terms of relevance and terminology. As an example, I used the bibliographic record that can be retrieved in a library catalog search for a book on securities regulation by Thomas Hazen. I’d like to return to that example now, but I’d like to strip the record down to some essentials to show these limitations more clearly.

Here’s the modified record:

Title: Treatise on the law of securities regulation, Volume 3

Practitioner treatise series   Author: Thomas Lee Hazen

Subjects:  1. Business & Economics; 2. Investments & Securities; 3. Business & Economics / Investments & Securities;   4. Securities;   5. Securities – United States

Notice that this series is called “Practitioner treatise series”. Yet there is not a single reference in the entire record to the terminology used by a securities law practitioner such as “tender offer’, “hostile takeover”, or “white knight”.  These terms are not mentioned in the subject headings.  Nor can the record tell us if they are even mentioned in the book itself, and if so, on which pages. Don’t even try to    determine the context of the references or the depth of coverage. Unfortunately, many of the answers to these questions require a physical examination of the actual book itself, and its table of contents and/ or index- something that’s difficult to do if the book isn’t on hand or nearby.

Google Books, www.books.google.com  other hand, provides a viable option to the traditional catalog in terms of searchability.  When you go to their website, you can then search their digitized book collection by entering natural language in their search bar. For example, if were looking to see if there were any references to “hostile takeovers’ in volume 3 of the Hazen treatise on securities regulation you could enter the words hostile takeover (no parentheses needed), and hazen to limit your search.  Google Books would then search their collection and respond with the following snippet message showing you the number of matches within this book and the context:

2 pages matching hostile takeover and hazen in this book

 

Page 431

 

If you wanted to do a more exhaustive search, you would enter your search terms in the bar, without the limitation of the Hazen book, and Google Books will retrieve other book titles containing the terms for you to view – along with the snippets on the context. Quite a difference from the traditional catalog search!

In Part 3 of my blog, I’ll discuss the reasoning behind the snippets (as opposed to full text entries), and provide more information on the pluses and minuses of Google Books.


When is a Search Not a Search? – Part 1

February 16, 2012

During a recent library tour at a branch of a large national law firm, I was shown an impressive, wooden chest of drawers in mint condition, housing a set of unused catalog cards. The Librarian jokingly told me how the chest was quite a conversation piece–particularly for young attorneys who had never seen one, and had no idea what it was used for. While I laughed, it’s also true that some attorneys still refer to all library catalogs (even the most sophisticated online ones), as “card catalogs”.

Despite the availability of user training classes, online tutorials, and impressive handouts, some attorneys expect the library catalog’s search functionality to duplicate their desktop Google experience. Why the misconceptions and misnomers?

I think that the answer lies in the fact that there is a fundamental disconnect between the way librarians have traditionally organized, displayed, and retrieved information on books in their collections, compared to the way that attorneys search for information using  Lexis, Westlaw and Google.  And in a time when Library budgets and staff positions are subject to scrutiny and reorganization, this doesn’t help.

Librarians are trained to rely on standardized subject headings to organize and group similar books that generally, yet accurately describe the book. These subject headings are found in bibliographic records that provide multiple access points for the Librarian, including title, author, series, edition, publication date, and length of the book – in addition to the defined subjects. Here is a sample bibliographic record that I found on Google:

Title      Treatise on the law of securities regulation, Volume 3

Practitioner treatise series

Treatise on the Law of Securities Regulation, Thomas Lee Hazen

Author  Thomas Lee Hazen

Edition  6

Publisher             West, 2009

ISBN      0314188029, 9780314188021

Length  7 pages

Subjects

Business & Economics

Investments & Securities

Business & Economics / Investments & Securities

Securities

Securities – United States

Attorneys on the other hand, often find this approach overly complicated, with lots of unnecessary information.  They are more familiar with online searching using unique “terms of art “common to their areas of practice. For a while, firms and/or their libraries hired staff to provide elaborate “data about the data” (i.e. metadata), to attempt to bridge the gap between the generic subject headings and the more specific “terms of art”. This approach can be both costly and cumbersome.

Another difference is that attorneys are used to KWIC or keyword in context searching using Lexis or Westlaw. This format allows them to view the relevancy of their search terms as they appear within the context of the retrieved documents. Traditional catalogs simply don’t have the capability to show how often, or in what context a search term (particularly a “term of art”), appears within a chapter or volume of a book.

In Part 2 of this blog, I will show how Google Books can offer end users the ability to search by keywords or “terms of art” and the ability to show relevancy.

 


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

February 10, 2012

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.


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.


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.