Researching the law, and everything else, with web 2.0

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Recent Financial Presentation by Thomson Gives Insight Into Legal Research Market and Practices

Via slideshare, a web 2.0 site for searching and uploading slideshow presentations, comes this financial presentation from Thomson's Legal Segment dating from this June, detailing the legal research technology and products market from Thomson's point of view.

The presentation depicts a steadily growing market for legal research, with Thomson as the market leader. Yet, interestingly, the presentation predicts that law school enrollment will level off and slightly decline in the next few years (presumably, the growth of law firms would follow suit). The presentation doesn't address what that trend might mean for the future of the legal research market or Thomson's approach to it.

Slide 31 shows the relative amount spent by legal researchers on different steps in the research process for litigation. It's no surprise that researching the law accounts for the greatest expenditure of researchers in research for litigation, but the "file and present" step accounts for nearly 2/3 as much revenue as research of the law. I'm not sure what that figure represents--perhaps downloading forms or double-checking citations? Of course, the mere fact that researchers spend a certain amount of money on certain research steps for litigation doesn't mean that money is efficiently spent that way, but it gives a broad idea of about how much research resources researchers consider appropriate for each step in researching for litigation.

This leads me to a thought: wouldn't it be nice to see a more detailed breakdown based on which databases are used, how often, for how long? I would be surprised to see any info like this from Thomson (maybe I'll look for it anyway, just for giggles), but perhaps it is worth looking for a good way to use your Research Trail on Westlaw to keep track of your own research habits and analyze them for efficiency.

The presentation of course also reveals quite a bit about Thomson's business model for the legal research market. Naturally, online research now dominates Thomson's revenue from legal research, at 2/3 of its legal research revenue, as "[y]ounger attorneys [are] primarily trained in online research."

According to slide 21, "combining online and print resources is [a] very compelling value proposition," but I'm inclined to be skeptical about that. From what I've noticed, researchers who prefer one or the other format would likely prefer to stay within that format for a particular research task. I'm not sure what I, as a researcher who prefers online research, would look for in a combined print/online service that I wouldn't prefer to see integrated entirely in an online service, but maybe they know something about researchers' habits that I don't know.

So far, it doesn't look to me like slideshare hosts a lot of legal research-related presentations, but I could see this as a great resource for CLEs if attorneys and researchers find the place and start posting.

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