The 2018 launch of Thomson Reuters Westlaw Edge was “buzz worthy” enough to get its own question in the Hits and Misses survey. I reviewed Westlaw Edge last July.  Readers were asked  to rank the value of Westlaw Edge features and to indicate whether their organizations had purchased Westlaw Edge… and if they hadn’t, to explain why.

Last  week  AALL announced that the Westlaw Edge Statutory and Regulatory  redlining feature “statutes compare and regulations compare” was given the prestigious “Product of the Year” Award. The readers of this blog agree. In the recent “Hits and Misses”  Survey,  Statutory and Regulatory Compare  was voted the most valuable feature in the new Westlaw Edge Product.

Statutes and Regulations Compare. I have no doubt that developing the technology for aligning statutes and regulations for a year over year comparison was is quite challenging. But  I can’t help but wonder if  this feature gets the award for being the most accessible and easy to explain to attorneys. The results smack you right in the timesheet. The resulting redline triggers an immediate gut understanding of the time saved compared to cobbling together a redline in a Word document… assuming you can easily locate the  the right statutory  text from the years you need to compare.

Citation Risk Analysis which came in third may be the most sophisticated new offering – but it offers a solution to a problem which was well… invisible to most lawyers. It almost requires a chart to explain what the “citation risk” is actually doing. It is the PHD of citation analysis products. It flags when an apparently valid precedent within a cited case has been indirectly over ruled in subsequent cases… as in  a lawyer’s  ‘eyes glaze over” before you have finished the first sentence of your multi-paragraph explanation.  And yet I am enough of a research geek to recognize the brainpower that went in to mapping the problem and the “Citation Risk” solution.

Analytics  came in second – even though analytics is the hottest and fastest growing segment of  legal research… But understanding this kind of data has a learning curve and until now lawyers have practiced law without it. I suspect that most lawyers won’t get the value of a “time to motion grant” chart until a client pushes an analytics dossier on his firm across the table for the first time.

WestSearch Plus – came in fourth. Frankly I am shocked that this wasn’t more highly ranked. It offers the first version of “Westlaw Answers” which utilizes AI in delivering answers to certain types of legal questions e.g. elements of a cause of action.  Westlaw had previously launched a version of Westlaw Answers which delivered “human curated” answers. Westlaw Answers in Edge not only uses AI but it can also deliver answers to analytics queries posed in natural language–which no other product offers.

The problem may be that “search” simply doesn’t “wow” people anymore… especially the search experts that read this blog. But I have been a legal researcher long enough to appreciate the trajectory  of  increasingly more sophisticated technologies and algorithms  powering  Westlaw since its inception. Westlaw has emphasized in their marketing and products demos that WestSearch Plus delivers more targeted results than Westlaw Next.

To consumers WestSearch Plus marks progress along a continuum rather than a fundamentally new tool shining with a gloss of novelty.   As early as 1990 Westlaw launched an alternative to “Boolean research commands” with  Westlaw EZ Access – a “fill in the blank” search option for partners. This was followed by the 1993 Westlaw is Natural WIN campaign marking the launch of the first natural language version of Westlaw.

WestSearch Plus is an excellent search tool – it may deliver more targeted search results and ultimately save lawyers time — but so far Thomson Reuters has not conducted a study to document the efficiencies delivered by the search engine.

To Buy Or Not To Buy

The majority of respondents indicated that they have not yet bought Westlaw Edge and have no plans to purchase in 2019.

Here are the Most Common Reasons:

    • Cost: 41% of non-purchaser respondents indicated that cost was the major factor in their decision.
    • No Clear ROI: was the factor mentioned by 24% of the non- purchasers.

Other factors noted by non-purchasers were: the cancellation of Westlaw prior to the launch of Edge (10%) prior purchase of Lexis Machina for analytics (5%).

Does it need to be stated? Show Me the ROI! If you have a product with a high price tag you need to deliver  a clear and compelling ROI message. Thomson Reuters could have rolled Westlaw Edge into existing contracts and allowed people to experience the value before tacking on the “up charge” during the  contract renewal. They could have offered it at a moderate price increase to ease people into the value of the product. It appears that Thomson Reuters has set the highest bar of all for themselves: High price point – supported by anecdotes rather than data.

How is it that in 2019 in the “age of analytics” – vendors have so much difficulty documenting value. Thomson Reuters is not alone here – none of their competitors Lexis, Bloomberg Law or Wolters Kluwer produce any efficiency or outcome studies to support their products and pricing. Thomson Reuters has in the past produced some very interesting value charts for Practical Law and “Dealproof” products but none to illustrate Westlaw driven efficiency.

It is time for  vendors to  justify the cost of  their products with some ROI data. If WestSearch Plus, Lexis Advance or Bloomberg Law “points of law” are making associates more efficient – show me the data!   And if you can’t invest in an ROI study to justify the cost  you are asking customers to pay — it makes me wonder if you really believe that your products can deliver the value which you continually promise.

Here are links to the prior Hits and Misses Posts

Part 1: Terminal Outrage.

Part 2: Best New Products and Features

Part 3: Best New Analytics Products