There have been some wild extrapolations of late on some of my favorite blogs regarding the meaning of  Dewey & LeBoeuf’s  unsecured “legal research” related  debts as listed in the firm’s bankruptcy filing.

 These debts are listed as follows: Thomson Reuters (owed $2.3 million), LexisNexis (owed $1.4 million.), and Wolters Kluwer/CCH (owed $650K.).

In search of the missing variables

I am no math genius but I have managed large law firm   information resource budgets  long enough to know that you can’t conclude anything about the debts listed in the filing unless you define a few more variables.This kind of competitive analysis demands more scrutiny and even  more facts. Some of the facts are unknowable at this point. But a competitive intelligence approach suggests that we conduct a “gap analysis” to define what we don’t know.

Defining the Debt

The Dewey bankruptcy filing defines the amounts above as being related to “research services.” The publishers are named but the the products.

The amounts listed  in the bankruptcy filing are meaningless without additional parameters. Some have jumped to the wild and unsupported conclusion that the debts in the bankruptcy filing  represent the annual flat contract amount for the Lexis and Westlaw online research products.

What Are the Missing Variables in the Equation?

1. Law firms don’t pay their Lexis and Westlaw bills once a year. The normal practice is for a firm to make a monthly payment. So the missing variable here is – how many months of Lexis or Westlaw payments were calculated into the total? How many months of payments were considered in default on the date of the bankruptcy?  Were there unpaid bills carried over from 2011?

2. Multiple jurisdiction, many products. Dewey was an international law firm. Lexis, Westlaw and CCH all have non-US products which separate from the main online product. Lexis has :Lexis Butterworths, (UK)  Juris Classeur (France) and Thomson Reuters offers  Westlaw UK  Sweet & Maxwell, Westlaw China , to name just a few of the non- US products. .I have no idea if Dewey subscribed to these particular products but given their footprint it is likely that there were outstanding bills for non-US content.

2.  Books Anyone? Lexis and Westlaw still publish thousands treatises and monographs. It seems likely that some of the outstanding bills are for print resources. Again – the mystery variable. How many months of unpaid print invoices might be included in the total?

3. Other Online products from Lexis  and Westlaw could include: Lexis Accurint, Lexis Atvantage, Courtlink. ,Westlaw Business,. Westlaw Monitor Suite, West KM. which could all have an unknown number of  monthly  unpaid invoices which are now considered in default.

4. Other non research products? Lexis and Thomson Reuters  each have a host of non-research products which may have been commingled with the research debt. Lexis owns Redwood Analytics and Interaction. Westlaw owns Elite accounting software and Hubbard One marketing platform..Both vendors sell a variety of litigation support products.

5. Wolters Kluwer: Many products, formats and jurisdictions.There is also no simple way to analyse the WK debt. These invoices could also include a variety of domestic and international products in multiple formats including the digital Intelliconnect platforms, Loislaw. Aspen print treatises and the traditional CCH  looseleaf services and annual codes.

Competitive Insights .I applaud the attempts to conduct this analysis, but  we need to approach this with the care we would take on an internal Competitive Intelligence project. We need to stand back and do a thorough “environmental scan” in order to identify the issues and potential data gaps which are critical to constructing this data model. In the weeks and months ahead more facts may be revealed on Dewey’s’ information resource related debts. But as of today we have insufficient data  with which to formulate an equation which could provide competitive insights into the annual pricing of Dewey’s large online research contracts.