Header graphic for print
Real Lawyers Have Blogs On the topic of the law, firm marketing, social media, & baseball

Legal startups partnering with the big boys : Make sense?

20140705-154139-56499471.jpg

LexisNexis and Lawctopus, the most popular website for law students in India, announced a partnership this week to help LexisNexis understand and reach out to the law student market. In turn, law students will be recognized by LexisNexis for their top-notch content on Lawctopus.

It is easy to see the benefit for LexisNexis. Though Lawctopus is only four years old and has its roots in a garage as a hobbyist blog, it reaches 85,000 law students and employs college managers at 75 Indian law schools.

From Vikesh Dhyani (@vikeshdhyani), Director and Head of Marketing for LexisNexis India:

Lawctopus has built itself into a popular, trusted brand for law students in India. We would love to reach out to our young readers through their platform to get more insights on how to serve this segment better.

Lawctopus’ CEO, Tanuj Kalia (@legalpoet), sees the partnership as a dream come true.

Our content is crowd-sourced with the only incentive being the happy feeling you get when contributing to a community! With LexisNexis awarding and certifying our writers, we can surely look forward towards more excellent content being published on Lawctopus.

Is it a dream come true?

  • What is LexisNexis’ reputation like in India? In the states, though LexisNexis is taking to social to engage the legal community, there is not always a lot of love between lawyers and LexisNexis. What if lawyers and law students think less of you because of the partnership?
  • Does a partnership with LexisNexis limit potential work you may want to do with Thomson Reuters, Wolters Kluwer, or other companies? Such other partnerships may involve money coming your way, something more valuable than love for your contributing law students. The other companies may be potential buyers, if that’s something in your future plans.
  • Does a partnership with LexisNexis limit your views, transparency, and authenticity on social media when it comes to talking about legal solutions and products coming from the big boys? Just the perception of bias is death for a CEO or company employees on the blogosphere. Let alone how you are perceived at conferences and speaking engagements.
  • How much time will it take on your company’s part to execute on the partnership? LexisNexis is big with lots of employees, you’re small. Will your team members need to take time away from their core responsibilities to execute? How much?
  • Will you be perceived as smaller in nature than you actually are? Managers at 75 law schools and 85,000 law students using your site is nothing to sneeze at. Going it alone, though lonely and rough at times, may get you to where you are headed faster.
  • Would a partnership with a smaller, perhaps similar size, company make sense? Your bargaining position could be stronger and they may excited about doing even more for you.
  • What happens when the market shits or the partnership no longer feels right? How deep are things?

Hey, I’m not asking Lawctopus, in particular, these questions. I know little of the company and they look to be doing great things under Kalia’s stewardship. I’m asking myself, though LexBlog may be beyond the startup stage, and other emerging growth legal solutions’ companies.

I can remember where I was standing on the ferry 10 years ago when I was talking to a LexisNexis executive. I told him “this blog thing” is probably going to turn into a big deal.

I told him that if LexisNexis was going to play in the professional/business development space, they were going to need a professional blog solution offering. LexBlog could deliver and support, while LexisNexis’ sales team could sell.

Having sold a previous company to LexisNexis and working there during its integration, I had seen companies receive seven figure checks a year for such deals. With LexBlog at six figures, if that, seven sounded awful sweet. The monies could fuel my product development.

The problem was that LexisNexis sweet spot for a product subscription was $500 to $600 a year. Design and development cost me that much.

Rather than look at a lower cost product I knew what a law firm and lawyer needed for a professional blog solution. It was more than just getting a blog online. I wasn’t sure LexisNexis understood blogging.

Our philosophies were not the right fit. I was also scared such a lower cost solution wouldn’t work for the lawyers.

Armed with my credit cards and the moral support of my friend, Tim Stanley (@justia), co-founder of FindLaw and Justia, who told me that I’d be happier going without a partnership, that’s what I did.

LexBlog talks and works with partners today. Always with a view as to how we can add value to our network members and to our partner.

Like Kalia I get pretty excited about the companies we could work with. I see other emerging growth companies in the publishing and social space working with the big boys. It’s only natural to want to keep up and look for potential exposure and distribution channels.

I am blessed to have a senior team to guide me and LexBlog. I am confident looking at the entire situation that we can arrive at the right partnerships going forward.

Hope you guys with emerging growth companies in the legal space can too.

  • http://www.lawctopus.com Tanuj

    Q. What is LexisNexis’ reputation like in India? In the states, though LexisNexis is taking to social to engage the legal community, there is not always a lot of love between lawyers and LexisNexis. What if lawyers and law students think less of you because of the partnership?

    A. LexisNexis is the leading legal publisher in India.

    Will law students and lawyers think less of us because of the partnership?

    Well, as far as law students go, we are lucky to have built a tremendous amount of trust and goodwill with them.

    Here are some facts to support that: More than 50% of our visitors are returning visitors. Our Facebook page grows by 15-20 likes a day (organically). When we issue a call for recruitment of college managers, we get nearly 400-500 applications (this is not a paid position).

    So, law students will not think less of us because of this
    partnership. The incentives LexisNexis is providing for students who write
    content for us will actually help law students in a big way.

    As far as lawyers/law firms are concerned, Lawctopus has had a somewhat notorious reputation with them.

    Background: we have this section on the website where students share ‘internship experiences/reviews’ at various law firms etc. Some of the reviews are ‘negative’ and law firms do not like us for that. Legal notices received till date: FOUR. J

    XXX

    Q. Does a partnership with LexisNexis limit potential work you may want to do with Thomson Reuters, Wolters Kluwer, or other companies? Such other partnerships may involve money coming your way, something more valuable than love for your contributing law students. The other companies may be potential buyers, if that’s something in your future plans.

    A. Our major source of revenues is advertisements and we are free to carry a Thomson Reuters or a Wolters Kluwer advertisement on Lawctopus.

    XXX

    Q. Does a partnership with LexisNexis limit your views, transparency, and authenticity on social media when it comes to talking about legal solutions and products coming from the big boys? Just the perception of bias is death for a CEO or company employees on the blogosphere. Let alone how you are perceived at conferences and speaking engagements.

    A. We continue to be editorially independent. That explains our
    notorious reputation with the law firms and the four legal notices!

    The ‘editorially independent’ clause is on paper. We’ve built editorial independence via the 1600+ posts that our up on Lawctopus and
    that’s not going to wither away soon. And given our past record, am sure our
    readers will trust us on that.

    XXX

    Q. How much time will it take on your company’s part to execute on the partnership? LexisNexis is big with lots of employees, you’re small. Will your team members need to take time away from their core responsibilities to execute? How much?

    A. It’s a very lean team for now. It’s just moi plus three law students who
    assist me with part-time work. Finalizing the deal did take time, but I enjoyed
    it and it wasn’t an all-day consuming commitment.

    And being the CEO, I take working on such deals as one of my core responsibilities J

    Implementing the deal too will not take too much time. And whatever time it takes, am sure, will make for a great learning experience.

    XXX

    Q. Will you be perceived as smaller in nature than you actually are? Managers at 75 law schools and 85,000 law students using your site is nothing to sneeze at. Going it alone, though lonely and rough at times, may get you to where you are headed faster.

    A. I didn’t get this! Why will we be perceived smaller?

    According to me, the fact that LexisNexis and Lawctopus did collaborate actually adds value to our brand.

    This reminds me of a quote (attributed to Ratan Tata) an Indian business tycoon: if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.

    XXX

    Q. Would a partnership with a smaller, perhaps similar size, company make sense? Your bargaining position could be stronger and they may excited about doing even more for you.

    A. The industry around lawyers and law firms in India (publishing, law firm
    management, recruitment etc.) is just in a fledgling state.

    There are not many trustworthy players for now to effectuate such kind of a partnership with a smaller company.

    XXX

    Q. What happens when the market shits or the partnership no longer feels right? How deep are things?

    A. If the partnership doesn’t feel right, we move on, of course!

    Having said that, interacting with Vikesh Dhyani and his team at LexisNexis has been a fabulous experience. You pick a lot of things when you talk to people of such caliber. I have all the reasons to believe that it will be long-term, fruitful relationship.

    But hey, “everything is impermanent” (my biggest lesson from the best experience I’ve had till now: the 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat).

    • http://kevin.lexblog.com/ Kevin OKeefe

      Thanks a ton for the time you took in commenting. Enlightening for me on more than one front. No question I have a learned a lot from engaging executives at LexisNexis and some of the other large legal players. I think you’re right about not looking smaller by partnering with LN. I thought that the case for LexBlog at one point and someone I have a lot of respect for told me just the opposite.

      Again, thanks for commenting. There’s good insight you share for a lot of us in emerging growth companies.

  • http://www.lawctopus.com Tanuj

    Hi Kevin, thank you for the post. I’ve been following you and LexBlog since my college days (at 24, am not too old, though).

    I think the questions you’ve raised are very pertinent. Though not directed specifically to Lawctopus, here are my answers to them.

    PS- I love a good discussion. :)