“Lawyers need an answer, not
a book.” Vice President Jason Wilson

Jones McClure is one of the
last independent legal publishers. They were founded in 1992 to fill the need for “user friendly law books.” They
have taken their time going digital and now they are breaking with the large
legal publishers by rejecting eBook 
technology– but this is no surprise.

Jones McClure is young company, a bit edgy and decidedly  independent.
They have been rebuffing acquisition overtures from the major publishers for years.
I checked out their blog and was met by a screaming headline ”Phone Sex and No Fault
Divorce.” They understand what appeals to their customers.

Jones McClure publishes 26
titles mostly on Texas practice and 7 non-Texas titles. Their federal titles include The O’Connor’s Federal
and their compilation of IP laws which are less
expensive than similar titles from the major legal publishers. Until  today they were a strictly a  book publisher.
The New Platform
This week Jones McClure
rolled out a new approach to rulebook research with the release of   O’Connor’s Online . O’Connor’s is the tradename of their court
rule and code publications. The company’s press release quotes President Baird  Craft: “Two keys to the service were search and
user experience. For search, we worked
with an industry leader, MarkLogic, and have built a sophisticated search
system, one that we will continue to tweak as more customers come online. For
user experience, we emphasized to the designers and developers that when a customer
is researching, they should always see three things: search results, a table of
contents, and the actual  content itself.”
O’Connor’s.com  has the clean book like appearance of an eBook
but there are no pages to turn.
The system defaults to federated search.  Filtering is the primary discovery function. Filters
are customized by product. Content can be bookmarked, highlighted, and marked
up with notes, all of which can be saved in easily accessible folders for
quicker retrieval. Content includes rules, annotated codes,forms and practice
commentary. Formatted forms are generated on the fly and can be downloaded and
saved to a local drive.

O’Connors Online


Giving Customers More Than They Paid For
It should be no surprise that
instead of following Lexis and Westlaw down the rulebook road to eBooks, Jones
McClure held back and assessed their options.  Vice President Jason Wilson described the
rationale this way.  “Jones McClure sees
itself as a content publisher not a book publisher.”  An eBook platform would limit their ability to
expose customers to new editorial content. They are basically turning the traditional
new product sales model on its head. Large publishers have often offered
existing content in a new format and asked customers to pay twice for the same
thing. Jones McClure is offering book customers access to a digital version of
the book and a wealth of new content to enhance the customer
experience for a modest additional cost. Unlimited access to O’Connor’s Online costs $600 a year. It can also be purchased on a month-to-month basis for $75 a month. Their book sales have been growing
and they are confident that the digital platform will not erode print sales.
You Can Quote Us But Don’t Cite Us
Jones McClure takes a
shockingly pragmatic view of how lawyers use their content. Wilson describes the
platform as an “answer delivery system.”  Jones McClure knows exactly how lawyers
work. They cut and paste from sources and Jones McClure doesn’t care. They are
happy to see their editorial text appear in court opinions. If their commentary
was persuasive to a judge, they are  serving the
needs of the lawyers and their clients. They don’t need to get the credit –
they just want loyal customers. Of course they are not talking about someone
downloading and reselling their database, but they have a healthy tolerance for
the reality of legal drafting. Let’s face in a common law system, everything is a derivative work based on
precedents written in the past.
The Innovation Pipeline
The O’Connor platform has a
built in customer pipeline. Users are encouraged to send suggestions directly to
the editorial staff. Suggestions are also posted on the website where other
customers have an opportunity to vote on suggested changes and content.

Customer Feedback Function


Future Developments
According to Vice President Jason
Wilson, they are building a product which will automate the drafting of documents based on their forms.
The automated  forms will take advantage of
the logic that is already built into their forms. The goal is to “follow the rule of ten,” namely don’t ask more
than ten interview questions before the user can get into the form and start
editing. They are hoping to launch that product in 2015.