A few weeks ago, I wrote about my preview of West’s new search product, WestlawNext. At the end of the post, I said that I’d like to upgrade, but I know I don’t want additional content within my subscription plan. I promised to report back on my negotiations with my account rep. This is my report.
My Background with Westlaw
I’ve been a Westlaw user for five years, and am currently two years into my second three-year contract with them. Since I work with lawyers nationwide, I have a very broad Westlaw plan (especially for a solo), with particular depth in New York secondary sources (about 50% of my clients are in New York). I currently pay $489/month for my subscription, with a scheduled price increase in March to $514/month. Here’s what my current plan looks like:
[table id=1 /]
I picked up ResultsPlus when I signed my current contract. I love it. Basically, the ResultsPlus plan allows you to click on any of the documents you see listed on the right side of your Westlaw screen without incurring an out-of-plan charge (without ResultsPlus, you’d get an out-of-plan warning screen). Only the “first click” is free: while you can browse through the table of contents of the analytical source you’ve linked to at no cost, if you view any other section of the source from the table of contents, it will be considered out-of-plan (you’ll get a warning screen and can then choose to cancel or continue). At the preview meeting in Eagan, West explained that ResultsPlus was somewhat of an early step towards the development of WestlawNext (which extensively features suggested links to materials in databases other than what you may be focusing on).
My Views About Westlaw Pricing
I expanded the views expressed in my last blog post on Twitter (@ reply indicators have been deleted):
Suppose it’s possible @Westlaw could req. NDA re: Westlawnext pricing, but there would be a huge backlash.
What @Westlaw thinks is “modest.” Frankly, I believe “upgrade” 2 WestlawNext should be free 4 current customers.
After all, @Westlaw will still make $ when customer accesses out-of-plan document from WestlawNext results list. [cont.]
Charging 4 upgrade to WestlawNext is shortsighted, b/c WLN is designed to reveal all relevant docs (incl. out-of-plan).
A WestlawNext user who frequently accesses out-of-plan docs, will convince *him/her self* to expand scope of subscription.
Also want to know what WestlawNext equiv is to WL’s Results Plus add-on (=1st click to doc outside of plan is free).
Agree that there were large R&D costs. WestLawNext algorithm relies on much more than what’s in pub domain.
Still, @Westlaw shld treat current customers better than new 1s; it will still profit as explained in my prev twts
Whether current @Westlaw pricing is outrageous depends on ur view of the added value it provides. I think it’s worth it 4
…my practice, which is research-heavy. If ur use is very light, not much value in a monthly subscription at their prices
My WestlawNext Upgrade Negotiations
After I explained my upgrade goals to my Westlaw rep, I received this response:
This proposal contains a straight migration of your All Cases & Statutes NY Gold with Regs Plus and adds the All Analytical library. The Law Reviews & Journals portion of your plan is a part of the All Analytical plan and therefore is not listed as a stand alone database. This proposal contains ALR, AmJur, AmJur POF, Causes of Action, Federal Practice and Procedure, etc., and captures the vast majority of your Results Plus usage. Based on your usage, the biggest missing piece in this proposal is CJS which you accessed approximately once a month through Results Plus.
This proposal is a step up in analytical content and includes CJS and the Restatements.
For this proposal I took a look at your usage of the CFR. Over the past year you have accessed the CFR 8 times, so it is a database that you may consider dropping. I kept you in All Cases & Statutes and added the NY Analytical plan to replicate the content of a NY Gold package. I added the All Analytical and included CJS as a stand alone subscription.
As I mentioned, WestlawNEXT is a premium product and while I have discounted my proposals to the highest order allowed, the prices reflect that premium. After we spoke I had the opportunity to speak with a reference attorney who has been using WLN for the past few months. Despite her exceptional skill at boolean searching she finds that WLN’s search engine allows her to find the most relevant cases quicker than boolean searching on Westlaw. The reason, she explained, is the intuitive nature of the search engine and its ability to look beyond your search to find the most relevant cases, statues and secondary sources.
As an existing customer, with any of these three proposals you will be eligible for up to $1000 in print at no charge.
Note also that your current plan is scheduled for an annual increase at the end of this month. Starting in March your monthly payment will be $514/month.
Here’s how the plans compare (all monthly prices have been adjusted to reflect the 45% discount I would get for being willing to sign a new 3-year contract at this point):
[table id=2 /]
(I’ve omitted the cost for CJS from Proposal #3 because I don’t need it as long as I have Am Jur, which is included in the All Analytical library.)
As you can see from the chart above, when a database (such as All Cases & Statutes NY Gold w/Regs Plus) comes over from Westlaw to WestlawNext without any change in its coverage, there is an approximately 11% price increase.
Here’s my response to the proposals:
Please provide me with a complete list of (1) All Analytical sources in WestlawNext; (2) New York Analytical sources in WestlawNext and (3) Results Plus sources in Westlaw. I would prefer if you provide me with links to where I (or anyone else for that matter) can find the sources lists online, as West should be transparent about what libraries/databases are available. If this information is not readily available online to the public (including individuals who are not current Westlaw Subscribers), please provide it as attachments.
Doesn’t All Analytical include everything that’s in New York Analytical? If not, the name of All Analytical is misleading.
Just to clarify: is the only difference between All Analytical ($381) and National Secondary Sources – Premium ($763) the fact that the latter includes Restatements and CJS?
He sent the database lists I requested, which I’ve linked to above. He also responded:
Remember that Results Plus allows the first click into the listed databases, while subscribing to the All Analytical Plan gives you unfettered searching in many of the same titles.
Re: All Analytical v. NY Analytical: The “all” refers to national analytical titles such as ALR, AmJur, etc. As evidenced by the attached documents, NY Analytical is targeted to NY specific analytical sources.
Re: The difference between All Analytical and National Secondary Sources, premium, is primarily the restatements and CJS. I haven’t cross checked all the databases (the list is too long), but those are the major titles.
Re: Proposal #3: The NYCRR is contained in the All Cases & Statutes portion of the proposal.
Any person can always go to www.west.thomson.com and find a complete list of databases for any of our online plans. It is my understanding that they are current with WestlawNEXT as well. As you mentioned, West should be and is transparent with the content of their plans.
Here’s my response:
The All Analytical list is far from comprehensive, and is nowhere close to offering equivalent value to the sources available in Results Plus. Specifically, the vast majority of the All Analytical database seems to be composed of Law Reviews and Journals. Another huge chunk of All Analytical is composed of what appears to be redundant portions of larger works. Here’s one example:
ALR American Law Reports [doesn’t this include all of the segments below?]
ALR-BKR American Law Reports–Bankruptcy
ALR-BUS American Law Reports–Business Organizations
ALR-CML American Law Reports–Commercial Transactions
ALR-CSTR American Law Reports–Construction
ALRDIGEST West’s ALR Digest
ALR-DUI American Law Reports–Driving While Intoxicated
ALR-ELD American Law Reports–Elder Law
ALR-ENV American Law Reports–Environmental Law
ALR-EPP American Law Reports–Estate Planning and Probate
ALR-FAM American Law Reports–Family Law
ALRFED American Law Reports, Federal
ALR-GOVK American Law Reports–Government Contracts
ALR-IMM American Law Reports–Immigration
ALRINDEX ALR Index
ALR-INS American Law Reports–Insurance
ALR-IP American Law Reports–Intellectual Property
ALR-LB American Law Reports–Labor and Employment
ALR-MRT American Law Reports–Maritime
ALR-MUN American Law Reports–Municipal
ALR-PAT American Law Reports–Patents
ALR-RP American Law Reports–Real Property
ALR-SEC American Law Reports–Securities
ALR-US-INT American Law Reports–Multinational (Issues Arising in the U.S.)
ALR-WC American Law Reports–Workers’ Compensation
ALR-ZONING American Law Reports–Zoning
Moreover, hardly any of the sources included in Results Plus Pro are included in All Analytical. Significant omissions from All Analytical include the state Jurisprudence works (e.g., CALJUR, FLJUR), the Witkin publications (re: California law) Couch on Insurance, Fletcher Cyclopedia of the Law of Private Corps. and Williston on Contracts. Only a tiny handful of non-law journal sources that are included in All Analytical are excluded from Results Plus (e.g., Handbook of Federal Evidence, West’s Federal Forms)
Since the biggest chunk of All Analytical is equivalent to Law Reviews and Journals, while All Analytical is missing perhaps 90% of what is included in Results Plus, the value of All Analytical is much closer to $54.61/month (the current charge for Law Reviews & Journals) than the $209.55/month (after 45% discount) that you propose to charge me for All Analytical. At most, I would pay $100/month for All Analytical, as that database is currently comprised. I would pay $209.55/month for National Secondary Sources – Premium, but only if that plan includes all (or a significant number) of the databases included in Results Plus Pro.
I understand that, in WestlawNext, I have access to the entire secondary source in All Analytical, as opposed to only the first click in Results Plus. However, the whole point of the new WestSearch algorithm is to display the most relevant content alongside my search results (that is also the model for ResultsPlus). Therefore, the first click is generally all I need.
I proposed the following solution:
If National Secondary Sources – Premium, does not include all (or a significant number) of the databases included in Results Plus Pro and/or I can’t get it for $209.55/month, then can I do the following: in WestlawNext, take All Cases & Statutes + NY Analytical and retain in Westlaw only ResultsPlus + Law Reviews and Journals (all of which I calculate to come to $539.06)?
My rep’s response:
The value of the All Analytical package is in its inclusion of ALR, AmJur, Federal Practice & Procedure, Causes of Actions and Proof of Facts. These are huge and popular national analytical sets containing a great deal of information across all areas of law. The content is vastly more comprehensive than the Law Reviews & Journals database.
In all my pricing I have maxed out the available discount. I cannot change the pricing any further and exceptions beyond our discretionary discount (which is, as you know, a generous 45%) are not being considered.
Additionally, accounts can choose from Westlaw or WestlawNEXT. It is not possible to purchase databases from WestlawNEXT and Results Plus. (Practically, this would force you to run all your searches in both search engines).
We do have plans that allow you access to virtually all databases outside of your plan at a discount of up to 90%. For example, for $100/month you get up to $1000/month of ancillary usage. This would be a good way for you to expand your universe of available databases while maintaining cost certainty.
Perhaps you would be interested in a trial password for WestlawNEXT? This way you can use the two products side to side and make the best value decision for your practice.
I find substantial value in having access to the 90% of Results Plus sources that are NOT included in All Analytical. In fact, I would appreciate if you can take a look at my account and provide me with a report detailing all of the sources I have used through Results Plus and the frequency of access.
I have used Westlaw Next. I am familiar with the value it can provide. The plans you suggest ($100/month for up to $1,000/month of out-of-plan usage) are not a good choice for me, since $1,000/month adds up very quickly. I want complete certainty.
The “discretionary discount” has a benefit for West, in that it locks in customers for 3 years.
I have no problem running my searches in both engines: it’s a simple copy and paste.
I asked my rep to put me in touch with his sales manager if he couldn’t do anything more for me. Here’s the sales manager’s response:
I received your message from [your sales rep]. You may contact me at your earliest convenience.
In advance, I will let you know that West has painstakingly put together its packages and prices with careful consideration. I assure you [your sales rep’s] proposal has met the limits of pricing negotiation and options.
We will understand if you feel your current plan which includes Results Plus remains a better solution for you.
So the bottom line is this: even if I’m willing to pay an 11% premium for the power to search with the WestlawNext algorithm in the same databases I currently have access to on Westlaw, tough cookies. They’re going to change their offerings around enough to make it difficult for you to compare apples to apples. And, most importantly, they’re not going to let you eat just you want to eat: they want to stuff you until you explode, like some crazed Jewish grandmother on Shabbos. Oh (and to beat this food metaphor to death), they’re not going to let you eat just a few courses at the fancy new WestlawNext (the Bouley Restaurant of legal research), and pick up the rest of your meal next door at good ol’ Westlaw (Bouley Bakery/Market): if you don’t want to eat your whole meal at WestlawNext, it’s no soup for you!
Update 2/11/10, 11:30 a.m.: I received this message from my rep’s sales manager this morning:
After reviewing the proposals we sent, I noticed we failed to mention that this is an introductory pricing that we will not be offering after February 28th.
As with all of our proposals and emails, I am hoping this information would be kept confidential.
Not smart, West. Not smart at all.
Update 2/13/10, 1:00 a.m.: Last night, I sent the sales manager an e-mail requesting a complete list of sources included in the National Secondary Sources – Premium plan. I also responded to his request for confidentiality:
With respect to confidentiality, in my view there are no trade secrets involved in our negotiation. The process of upgrading to WestlawNext is like buying a new car. There’s an MSRP, and each option also has its own price. Packages can bring down the price of certain options. But would a car salesman ask you to keep your negotiations confidential? There is no reason—other than a desire to divide and conquer your customers and potential customers—to request confidentiality for these negotiations. “Transparency” goes beyond providing complete source lists (see Elwyn’s message of February 9): it must extend to pricing, too.
Just now (yes, I’m burning the midnight oil), I sent the sales manager this message:
Further to your message of 2/11, please advise what the prices will be for all WestlawNext plan components that I have discussed with [my sales rep] after February 28.
Additionally, please provide the URL(s) for any public statements by Westlaw informing the legal community that it would be offering “introductory pricing” for a total of 14 business days after launch, at a time when very few customers have had a chance to be exposed to WestlawNext, and before “Johnny and Jenny Westlaw” have even had an opportunity to visit six major markets. Certainly, there’s no way each rep can pitch all of his or her accounts, and negotiate plans for all interested customers, in that time frame.
I’ll update again once I hear back (which may not be until at least Tuesday, since Monday is a holiday).