The 2007 recession was sort of a “cattle prod” which shocked law firms into acknowledging that  clients won’t pay for inefficiency. Legal publishers responded with a variety of “know how” or KM tools  which have created  a highly competitive niche in legal publishing. Every major legal publisher LexisNexis ,Thompson Reuters, Bloomberg Law, and Wolters Kluwer have been focused on gaining market share by growing their practice guidance and drafting tools.
This week FEIT Consulting is releasing a study :”Findings from the LexisNexis Practical Guidance/Thomson Reuters Practical Law Focus Group Inquiry” which summarizes the results of four focus groups which pitted Thompson Reuters Practical Law against Lexis Practical Guidance (previously branded as Practice Advisor.)
The basic question : “Is Lexis practice guidance ready for prime time?”  appears to have been answered in the affirmative.
Well the librarians are a hardened and skeptical lot and will want to test, poke, probe and conduct their own internal focus groups before

buying a new product. But the results do present some very specific issues and features  that could be useful benchmarks for any law firm evaluating products for renewal or new purchase.
What I don’t  know. I don’t know if this study was funded by one of the vendors. But based on the reported results I can guess which one is likely to have requested the study. I don’t have a list of all the questions – so I don’t know which issues were not addressed at all in the summary. Nonetheless – the issues which are highlighted, at the very least provide some points of comparison for law firms planning to take a look at either platform.
The methodology.  Feit conducted four focus group sessions with a total of 12 participants each. The group included three attorneys and nine librarians who were all experienced with both services.. The group came from a variety of firms sizes: small medium large as well as academic institutions.
Some key takeaways:
  • Overall participants trusted both products.
  • Participants identified organization, layout and ease-of-use as being superior and Lexis Practice Guidance.
  • Participants suggested that the Lexis Practical Guidance results were more targeted than Practical Law.
  • Participants appear to have preferred the positioning of “resource kits”  at the top of the Practical Guidance results compared to  Forms at the top  of Practical Law results.
  • Preferences of one service over another depended on the specific research task being performed.
  • Practical Guidance  provided clear labeling showing frequency of updates.
  • Practical guidance downloading features were less desirable than those of Practical Law.
  • 50 state survey tools. This is perhaps the most significant difference in content and performance. Practical guidance can compare not only state laws but state laws and the federal law on a topic.
  • Market Standards (Practical Guidance) versus What’s Market (Practical Law). Both services compare  deal terms and clauses from publicly filed deals and agreements. The one advantage highlighted by focus group users was that Lexis Market Standards includes graphical tools and analytics — automatically included for all subscribers to the content. Thompson Reuters has released visualization tools but it is sold  as an upgrade called Practical Law  Dynamic Tool Set
  • Focus groups were unable to conclusively evaluate functional and content differences between the Market Standards and What’s Market systems.
Licensing and cost Thompson Reuters has had a very significant market advantage because they purchased the pioneering UK platform Practical Law  in 2013. LexisNexis launched  the first Practice Advisor module in 2012 and they have spent almost a decade building out the product and trying to erode Practical Law market share. Practical Law’s market dominance has been accompanied by both stratospheric pricing and the aggravating disaggregation of content. I was personally outraged to discover that the Commercial Litigation and Securities Litigation content was peeled away from the  Practical Law Litigation module and resold as an “upgrade.”   As of this writing, Lexis Practical Guidance is significantly cheaper than Practical Law. But as we all know… Lexis as a track record  of implementing spectacular price increases of their own. Law firms are always one renewal away from “sticker shock.” Pricing is the issue on which Practical Law is most vulnerable. So if Practical Guidance has reached a competitive “sweet spot” for both content and functionality, law firms will take a serious look at making a switch.
Feit provided the following summary: “Based on our research we believe practical guidance as well positioned as a satisfactory and more compellingly priced offering”
To learn more about the study visit the FEIT Consulting website.