This week Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory announced the appointment of Robert Lemmond as President & CEO of Wolters Kluwer Law & Business. Lemmond, joined Wolters Kluwer in 2011 as Vice President of the Law & Business Legal Markets Group. He previously held executive positions at several content and software companies including IHS, Primark, Disclosure, Northern Light. He replaces Mark Dorman.
Why this is good news for Wolters Kluwer
Robert Lemmond
Over the past decade I was slowly coming to the conclusion that WK  had seen its best days. They were destined to be bought or slowly fade away. They had good solid products but they seemed to be losing momentum. The Standard Federal Tax Reporter retained iconic status for tax lawyers. WKs suite of business titles were solid staples for securities, banking, trade and host of other practices. WK was one of the first major publishers to digitize their publications with the release of cd-roms in the early 1990s. They purchased Loislaw a low cost research alternative to Lexis and Westlaw in 2000. They owned a suite of esteemed treatises from Aspen Publishing. But the 2009 release of the Intelliconnect platform was a disappointment. Their biggest limitation was the absence of a full blown citator system to help lawyers verify that the cases they were citing had not been overturned. When Bloomberg Law was released in 2011, Greg Lambert in his 3 Geeks and a Law blog  pointed out that Blaw had stepped in and made the move everyone was waiting for Wolters Kluwer to make. WK owned lots of great pieces but couldn’t seem to weave then into a whole.

 The Problem Wasn’t Just the Products Over the years I had found WK pricing and contracts to be stubbornly out of touch with the law firm demands for efficiency and cost control. They tied online contracts to the retention of print. The pricing structure was opaque. A law firm couldn’t cancel a print subscription even when it was no longer needed. There seemed to be no way to cut the WK spending short of cancelling everything and returning as a new customer.  It really got ugly following the 2007 financial crisis. Law firm attorney counts were falling and budgets were being slashed. Many publishers agreed to suspend or modify existing contracts as an investment in future “good will.” Not Wolters Kluwer! They were spectacularly indifferent. An executive agreed to meet with me at  the annual AALL conference so I could plead my case in person. He reacted as if I was reading him a page from a phone directory. It was a brief, polite and yet pointless exercise. I walked away wondering if he had heard a word I had said.

Bob Likes to Listen Since Bob Lemmond arrived at WK in 2011 he has been on a mission to learn about customers. He likes to listen to customers! He created advisory councils of librarians and attorneys. He traveled around the country meeting with key customers. During a call this week, Lemmond said he is especially interested developing a close partnership with the librarian community because they have such deep research expertise and are focused on the quality of information.  In the past two years there has also been a steady stream of changes in the tone of client communications, the introduction of new products, innovative licensing schemes and new pricing models for products. Lemmond doesn’t take credit for all the changes but the timing is curiously aligned.
 Recent WK Law & Business Initiatives Include:
  • Establishing Insight Leaders Councils  
  • Expanding the new RB Source platform which is more intuitive than Intelliconnect 
  • Releasing a series of practice dailies which are clearly positioned to compete with the Law360. 
  • Offering pioneering licensing models for the newsletters which allows lawyers to share content with clients and post certain content on the law firm website. 
  • Entering  a relationship with Thomson Reuters to distribute WK newsletters on the Westlaw platform 
  • Offering new pricing options which anticipate the ongoing shift from print to digital and which allows customers to permanently migrate lawyers off of print resources.

The War Between the SuperSystems For the past 2 years everyone has been watching the 3 way tug-of -war for market share between Blaw, Westlaw and Lexis. I suspect that WK is not going to jump into that end of the pool. During this week’s call Lemmond indicated that there would be no major change in direction for WK. However, he was confident that the company had the right pieces in place to expand market share with practice focused workflow solutions which enhance productivity and provide expert guidance.

Budgets are still tight in law firms, so focusing on productivity enhancing expert systems instead of competing directly with the SuperSystems may provide the right lever for growth in the current market.

Keep the phoneline open. The next voice you hear may be Bob Lemmond calling.

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