WestlawNext was the topic of the day on The Law Librarian show on Blogtalk Radio last Friday. Although I wasn’t able to listen to the show live, I caught the recording.
Though much of the discussion was focused on the WestlawNext algorithm, the participants touched on pricing as well. One of the featured guests expressed this concern: “If this is as cool as it appears, it widens the gap between what large law can do versus the self-represented litigant or even the small law firm. Because large law firms can afford to buy this right away . . . .”
Later, one of the guests, extrapolating from the fact that 80% of lawyers in the country practice in firms with fewer than 20 lawyers that don’t employ law librarians, posited that most of West’s revenues come from small firms.
Greg Lambert recounted the disdain of his co-blogger, Toby Brown, for West’s excuse for charging a premium for WestlawNext (which is that the company has invested significant resources in the upgrade). I agree with Toby’s view that customers expect a company like West to take R&D costs out of its own pocket, rather than so blantanty reaching into its customers’ pockets to cover them.
The show’s chatroom transcript also contains some great nuggets about pricing:
Marcia Dority Baker
How many people are firm librarians? have you bought westlawnext yet?
I’ve had the my rep onsite and had a demo. The product looks great, much simpler for users, the problem is the pricing.
It’s being sold as a seperate product – $900 month in addition to our current subscription. Or there is a pay-as-you-go option, $10 per search, $5 to view/print document, $2 for keycite
Does anyone else feel reps weren’t very well prepared for the rollout? While I’m glad TR invited bloggers to preview it and greatly appreciate their insights and feedback but reps seem behind the 8 ball and don’t have all the information.
Example of conflicting information: our rep told us it was $60 per search.
But if you’re able to bill back most Westlaw charges, how does this impact a law firm library budget?
Many corporate clients want flat billing from outside counsel
That’s just it – we’re not able to bill back many charges b/c many large clients won’t pay for online research or attorneys write it off for a variety of reasons.
recovery rate is never where it needs to be. i can’t take risks.
Marcia Dority Baker
Hmm, are small firms West’s bread & butter?
I think smaller firms are probably very important business, many don’t keep books, and just use electronic material on West.
I think it’s fascinating that large firm librarians think that small firms are important to West’s bottom line, since my WestlawNext upgrade negotiations have led me to believe that West isn’t interested in the solo market at all.
It’s also interesting to hear about biglaw’s experience with cost recovery, a topic I posted about last May.
Finally, I’m going to take this opportunity to update my last post (for some reason, the update is breaking that post):
Update 2/25/10, 8:30 p.m.
On Monday, I received a response (by snail mail) from my rep’s sales manager. Included with the response was a long list of the databases included in the National Secondary Sources – Premium plan. Although I haven’t had a chance to review the list in detail, as I expected, it appears to be nearly identical to the All Analytical Library content (which, as noted above, is far from comprehensive, and is nowhere close to offering equivalent value to the sources available in Results Plus), plus Corpus Juris Secundum.
The sales manager’s response to my pricing questions was classic West:
There are no URL [sic] or press releases regarding our pricing modules or programs. As I stated earlier, that information is confidential.
Oh, and the post-February 28 prices for all of the WestlawNext plan components I discussed with my sales rep? “That has not been released.”
So, let me see if I have this straight: First, my sales rep quotes me prices for several WestlawNext libraries. Weeks later—after I prove myself to be a tough customer—the sales manager tells me that my rep forgot to mention that those prices are only the introductory prices. But he can’t tell me what the regular prices will be, even though they’ll be going into effect next week.
While I don’t have a business or marketing degree, I know a little bit about marketing from personal experience. Whenever a company offers a special introductory/early bird price, they tell you what the regular price will be. Why? To motivate you to buy now. And when a company offers an early bird price, they actually advertise it; after all, what’s the point of creating urgency if nobody knows about the special offer?
My last post is two weeks old. I’ve invited West to respond to the issues. A week ago, I raised them in a comment on West’s own blog. Other bloggers have commented on the lack of pricing transparency. Yet West hasn’t offered an official response. The company’s silence speaks volumes about the regard in which it holds its customers.