Over the next year, LexisNexis is rolling out a completely redesigned research platform, and guess who they’re starting with? From the press release that came out Tuesday:

LexisNexis… today announced the launch of Lexis® Advance for Solos – the first in a series of releases of new Lexis® Advance online legal research tools. Created through close collaboration with solo practice lawyers to meet their unique requirements, Lexis Advance for Solos is the first online legal research solution built specifically for solo attorneys…

That’s right. They’re starting with solos. Maybe we don’t need to worry so much about advancing the small firm agenda after all? Perhaps, but I suspect that the real answer is that solos represent the market where Lexis has the most to gain.

But, let’s not quibble over why it’s here. It’s here, and I got a sneak preview of the new product Monday morning. Said “peek” was actually a LexisNexis-led tour via Microsoft’s Live Meeting, so read this with the caveat that I didn’t have a chance to truly kick the tires.

Dubbed Lexis® Advance for Solos, the product went live for purchase on Monday, October 4, and is available only for one and two lawyer outfits. Future segments of the new Lexis Advance platform, including those specifically for Biglaw and even for paralegals, will roll out over the course of the next year, but who cares? Solos have the floor!

My thoughts on the new product, sample screen shots, and pricing, after the break…

After reviewing the copy of the press release I was given in advance, it turns out my “personalized” preview was akin to having the press release acted out by means of a remote-controlled cursor. Both started similarly, with Lexis wanting us to know that they’ve been doing their homework in developing this latest product:

Lexis Advance for Solos and the New Lexis platform have been developed through more than 30,000 interactions with legal professionals from all markets, many of them solo practice lawyers, in 1,500 one-on-one and small group design forums, in advisory meetings, labs, ethnography sessions and focus groups…

Their takeaway from those meetings was three-fold:

  1. Solos want a product that’s more intuitive and efficient.
  2. Solos want a better base package of content.
  3. Solos want predictable pricing.

This is not exactly earth-shattering information, and I’d imagine that most Biglaw types would have a similar wish list. Depite the generic nature of this list, the folks I spoke with did seem to have a genuine understanding that time is precious for lawyers, and especially so for solos, who act not only as the lawyer, but as managers, marketing departments, etc. But, did they understand you enough to deliver on these issues? I would say yes, yes, and maybe.

First, on efficiency — you can search directly from the home page (screen shot below), with natural language or Boolean style, and quickly set your content type (i.e., case law, statutes, etc.), jurisdiction, and/or practice areas, by clicking a box on one of those respective drop-downs. The search box has a Google Instant-type function that guesses what you’re looking for based on the most frequently searched phrases at Lexis (which you cannot turn off… at least in the first edition release).

“My Workspace Carousel,” one of the more noticeable additions, functions in an iTunes-album-cover-like manner, allowing us to roll between a homepage, research history page, help page, and folder page. The folders are a nice touch. You can quickly organize and access your research by client and toggle between files easily via the ever-present toolbar at the top of the page (the dark gray one). This should make it easier to jump from file to file, which solos do, on average, quite a bit more than Biglaw attorneys.

Once you decide what and where to search, the results appear in a neatly organized manner by your chosen databases (screen shot below), with the option to further refine your selection via the left-handed column that toggles in and out at your command. As you dive into the content, your steps are easily traceable via the tabular layout. Additionally, your moves are tracked and saved to the history, which is always accessible at the permanent “Client” bar atop the page.

Second, on content, let’s go back to the press release:

  • Comprehensive and fully enhanced primary law from all states: All available LexisNexis case law (Federal and State), including all LexisNexis headnotes and case summaries. All available statutes and constitutions (Federal and State) from all 50 states and US territories.
  • Shepard’s® Citations Service: The LexisNexis exclusive citator allows solo practitioners to quickly check if a case is good law.
  • The industry-leading collection of LexisNexis jury verdicts, briefs, pleadings and motions: Includes premium materials from IDEX®.
  • LexisNexis® CourtLink® content: Includes the full collection of dockets.
  • Expert witness transcripts, depositions, and curricula vitae.

Not too shabby. To my recollection, this list would be a vast improvement over what my old firm’s limited subscription offered. I question how often solos will want to access things like jury verdicts and expert CVs, though. In my days as a small-firm lawyer, my searches were much more simple, with many a legal research project starting on Google in order to mitigate costs.

Well, the good folks at LexisNexis realized that I’m not the only lawyer to do this, and have integrated something else new into their content: the world wide web — well, kind of.

In case the content you paid for (I know, I know — just get to the pricing) on this new platform doesn’t deliver what you’re looking for, Lexis added the ability to simultaneously search the free Internet. I say “kind of” because the web results will only include hits from sites selected by members of the LexisNexis editorial team — the idea being to cut out the riff-raff sites.

In case you’re wondering, I was assured by my contact that “the editorial team is selecting these sites solely on the basis of what is best for users without any monetary incentive.” Also, your very own Above the Law is indeed one of the chosen sites. Just think, you can charge your clients for reading my column! Kidding aside, I’m not really sure what this feature adds except to save you the step of re-typing the search and/or the arduous process of toggling back and forth between the two. Here’s the screen shot I was sent of a “web search” on the new platform:

In addition to the abbreviated web, future content will include an application they’re calling “Legal Issue Trail” (patent pending), which was described to me as “Shepard’s on steroids.” My contact elaborated, explaining that it will allow you to…

combine citations, terminology, and points of law to run targeted searches against the content set and identifies “like” documents that contain the same citation and core language. This makes research more efficient for users by helping them find the most relevant results faster.

Yes, but will it be banned by MLB?

Okay, on to the (hopefully not) million-dollar question: What does it cost? Their response to the need for “predictible pricing” yielded a one-size-fits-all-solos cost of $175 per month. This gets you all the content described above and absolutely nothing else. What I mean is that you will physically be unable to go “outside of your subscription.”

This flat rate, of course, allows solos to know exactly what their invoices will look like each month, though this newly rigid boundary of the paid-for content may not be quite as necessary for solos who, because they double as office managers, presumably control and are much more familiar with the bounds of their subscription than many attorneys in larger firms). Nonetheless, it does provide some added security that your bill will be $175, without discussion (or $315 — it’s $140 per month to add the second attorney).

The important question that I can’t answer is whether or not this price structure bests the available competition. How does your current research budget compare? In Georgia, I had Casemaker available at the state bar’s website for the cost of my annual dues. The content is comparable, though the searching, citing and Shepardizing capabilities are rudimentary in comparison to the new Lexis® Advance program.

So, what do you think, solos? Are you interested? What programs are you currently using? Also, were any of you out there actually involved in the research behind the development of this new program? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

As always, e-mail me with your thoughts and comments at Little Richard at gmail dot com. You can also find me on Twitter at here.

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of small law firms

Disclosure: As previously mentioned, LexisNexis is an Above the Law advertiser.


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