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Disaggregation of legal information an opportunity for all

Shaunna Mireau, ‎Director of Knowledge Management and Process Improvement at Field Law, reports on an interesting development on the reporting of UK law.

Per a recent press release from ICLR (The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales):

[ICLR] has started the process of disaggregating its law reports from the online services operated by LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. Subscribers to these services based elsewhere in the world will not be affected. The process of removing ICLR content from these providers will take effect on 1 January 2017. Thereafter, the ICLR – the publisher of the English official series, The Law Reports – will provide its case law service directly to lawyers, judges, academics and students in these regions through its established online platform, ICLR Online

It gets more interesting when you get to the why. From ICLR:

Following its 150th anniversary last year, the ICLR – the publisher of the English official series, The Law Reports – wants to continue providing its clients with high quality and timely law reports whilst adapting to an increasingly digitalised and competitive environment and disaggregation is the best way to do this.

More timely. Higher quality. Disaggregation results in a better product, per the ICLR.

What’s it mean for law firms? Per Mireau:

[I]t means that market share for legal publishers is leaner. Content that may have been the tipping point for accepting a contract with one or the other of the major Canadian content providers is now less of a factor. The Canadian market for legal information will be more and more about value added features and enhancements. Legal information purchase choices will come down to the values that content user groups have. What is most important to you, your firm, your organization? Is it rigorous editorial processes, is it feature sets, is it ease of use/ease of training, is it recognition of specific content pieces, niche subject matters, is it price certainty?

And for law librarians?

Opportunity. Opportunity to be the finding expert, the portal, the keys to the legal information universe. Publishers collect and build, and law librarians are the folk that make people come. We pave the road that leads to that baseball field in Iowa.

Beyond case law we have all sorts of secondary legal information available. Lawyers, librarians and other professionals turn to Google expecting to find what ever they want — and most of the time they do.

Look at the amount of niche information being published on blogs by skilled lawyers. The information is timely and coming from a passionate source which cannot be matched by traditional legal publishers.

The blogging lawyer can be immediately reached via an email or phone call for further information or sources. Bloggers by their vary nature are looking for further collaboration and engagement. Try doing the same with the author of a treatise or article accessed via a Thomson Reuters or LexisNexis subscription.

Not only is the information itself free and readily available, but there are active discussions among authorities online. Blog posts comment on what others have written on blogs, articles and reports. Engagement follows.

Discussions also take place via social social media. It’s amazing the amount of news, information and analysis that moves across Twitter via brief comments and links to longer commentary. Sounds nuts, but any source can be reached via a Tweet.

Social media discussion establishes trust, authority and influence. Sources of information become truly known and peer vetted. How well do you know the author or editor of a secondary source offered by a subscription service?

Publishers such as LexisNexis have tried to lasso law blog content via aggregation. Asking for formal agreements so that your blog content could be accessed via firewall ultimately doomed their attempts to failure.

Bloomberg Law aggregates law blog content in some fashion, but I am not ceratain how valuable the content is when anyone with an interest in the source can receive free feeds and email updates.

Information flows freely and seamlessly across the net. Accessing legal thought, let alone case law, codes and regs is not all that hard.

Free access also provides for greater collaboration and advancement in the law. Closed paywalls requiring expensive subscriptions do not enable social sharing and discussion. Think back 20 years. How many lawyers openly discussed the law in a way that anyone with common interest could join the discussion?

Like using a travel agent to access air travel, the concept of accessing legal information and thinking via agents to whom you pay a subscription will be a foreign concept in the coming years.

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