Just when it appeared that
Lexis was about to corner the legal news market (ALM, Law360, WSJ Law Blog),
Bloomberg BNA is announcing today the release of a new open access community
platform called “Big Law Business.”   Big Law Business  
delivers  articles, podcasts, videos, twitter feeds,  polls and white
papers focused on the unique concerns of partners, GCs and  Law firm
executives at AmLaw 200 firms. One unique feature is moderated online discussion. 
Law firm leaders and GCs can join moderated online communities and exchange
ideas on best practices, innovations as well as legal issues.

Mozarsky, President, Cross Platform Businesses, Bloomberg BNA is quoted in the
press release: “Big Law Business will provide visitors ample opportunities to
engage with those in similar roles at law firms and corporations and benefit
from shared insights and wisdom.”   When Greg McCaffery was appointed CEO of Bloomberg BNA in 2012 he signaled Bloomberg’s
intention to supplement the traditional practice of law platform with new
content which focuses on “the business of law.” Today they are taking one
more step in implementing that strategic focus. 

Bloomberg’s Big Law Business Platform

I predicted in 2011
that Bloomberg would ultimately leverage their multimedia talent pool  for
their legal product. Bloomberg has recruited editorial talent from their news
and  tv production  divisions. Big Law Business has a clean
professionally produced  look and feel. About
50% of the content will be contributed by independent “thought leaders” recruited
from the Amlaw 200 community,  academia
and the commercial ventures and support the practice of “Big Law.”

Above the Fold

I was given a prelaunch
tour of the product. The Big Law Business Platform currently offers 4 major
”communities of interest” which are aligned with potential members roles: Managing Partners, In House Counsel,
Marketing/Business Developers and Technologists. I am surprised that they have
not yet added  a section for professionals involved in
Knowledge Management/Process Improvement which are key initiatives driving  both the competitive position and the
profitability of Amlaw 200 firms.

Bloomberg is not known
for embracing open platforms. The login procedure for early versions of BLaw
actually required lawyers to provide a biometric thumb scan. Until recently
they would not allow BLaw content to be accessed using IP authentication– which
is  routinely allowed my most legal information
providers. Bloomberg does have a history of making contrarian moves, so as
Lexis locks down the news, Bloomberg  is
throwing open the gates.

      Casey Sullivan, Senior Director of the Big Law
Business Community  will oversee the
moderation of comments.   The site is built on the assumption that there
is an appetite for more community engagement. Any comments placed on the Site
need to be relevant to the Big Law Community. This community includes current
and former members of AmLaw 200 Law Firms, in-house counsel, vendors who
support big law practice, academics and industry observers. According to
Sullivan “We won’t allow community members to throw up an advertisement in a
comment to promote their own business. The comments should be thoughtful. The best
comments will offer original ideas, opinions, best practices and analyses of
industry wide issues.”

Touching the Hot Buttons

The Bloomberg Law
product has always marketed itself as being both a business and legal
research platform which offered a unique value proposition to partners. Breaking
with the traditional legal research cost recovery model, Bloomberg had no meter running
because a firm paid an annual subscription for unlimited access. Like the Bloomberg terminal in
the financial sector – the product was positioned as a desktop utility that a
lawyer should simply keep open on their desktop for use as needed through the
day. The use case  is that BLaw allows a  partner to launch their BLaw account in the
morning and easily locate information on clients using the “go bar command ” to
retrieve company profiles, executive profiles, financials all delivered in a click.
The Big Law Business platform appears to be a tool for building both brand awareness and goodwill at
the partner level. I have to presume that this is a gambit to increase the
adoption of Bloomberg Law in Amlaw 200 law firms.

It is a given that law
firms are competing for the attention of In-House Counsel. So the creation of
an online community plays to the most fundamental business development and
competitive instincts of lawyers. Every lawyer needs to be a rainmaker.
Opportunities to gain insights and access to corporate GCs from the comfort of
your own desktop are coveted. To this end, Big Law Business will prominently
feature video interviews with  In House
Counsel. They will also provide GC profiles and the chance to engage GC in the
Chat discussions or build the law firms brand by adding publications and
commentary to the site.

The Competition

Blaw is  not actually the first company  to offer an online chat community to lawyers. David
Johnson, a former partner from Wilmer Cutler and Pickering created a platform with
American Lawyer Media called Counsel Connect in the mid 1990s.  It may have been an idea that was two decades ahead of
its time. The world and even Big Law partners have a much higher awareness and
openness to online social engagement in the 21st century. Big Law Business
also plays to lawyers consciousness of being part of a very exclusive club
a factor which may drive more traffic and engagement One issue that argues against
participation is the strong branding control exerted by law firm marketing
department. It is a lot harder to be spontaneous in the more self conscious and
controlled marketing regime which exists in most big law firms today.

Big Law Business is competing with the Memisis Law
site which was created by former Bloomberg video host, Lee Pacchia which offers
similar video interviews of thought leaders on hot topics. The site has some
resemblance to ALMs re-launched  Law.com
platform which also offers communities and  a mix of crowd-sourced and editorial content. I
anticipate that  Bloomberg  will develop their own brand of law firm rankings before too

I was baffled when Bloomberg did not purchase American Lawyer Media last
year when it was up for sale, and now I know why. They planned to complete directly and build their own
business of law brand… and they are doing it as “free ware” rather than entering
the market only after convincing firms to pay a fee for admission. It
is also a dramatic change from the positioning of BLaw which entered the legal market
at the high end of the pricing spectrum. Big law partners now have a new source
of business intelligence and a platform for client engagement at the best
possible price – free!

Big Law Business is located at http://bol.bna.com/

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