LexisNexis must talk with customers to show it cares

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The CEO of LexisNexis, Mike Walsh received a letter this last week from Michael Best’s James Fieweger, a former Asssiatant U.S. Attorney skilled in criminal and state and federal investigations.

A letter accusing Walsh’s company of anticompetitive sales practices and asking that it cease those practices and enter into a dialog with the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) leaders, “as opposed to legal or commercial action.”

AALL is the only national association dedicated to the legal information profession and its professionals. Founded over a century ago on the belief that people —lawyers, judges, students, and the public—need timely access to relevant legal information to make sound legal arguments and wise legal decisions.

Its almost 5,000 members are problem solvers of the highest order from major law firms, law libraries, law schools and various state, federal and municipal bodies. AALL fosters the profession by offering its members knowledge, leadership, and community that make the whole legal system stronger.

What won’t LexisNexis talk about with these 5,000 customers and their representatives? LexisNexis’ practice of tying alleged lesser products to products in greater demand. Want the later, buy the former too.

As LexBlog’s editor-in-chief and publisher, Bob Ambrogi reports:

…[F]irms have historically been able to purchase from LexisNexis the publications and services that fit their needs. They could, for example, purchase specialized materials such as Moore’s Federal Practice, various treatises, or analytical tools such as Lex Machina, without having to license Lexis Advance.

No more says LexisNexis, per Fieweger,

Since July 2017, however, AALL has received numerous reports from law firm-affiliated members that LexisNexis has adopted a new sales policy. Under the new policy, firms are required to purchase a license to Advance before they can purchase access to other LexisNexis publications and products. And those firms that do not wish to purchase Advance, for whatever reason, have been foreclosed from accessing other products they have used in their practice for years and, in some cases, for decades.

AALL has attempted to discuss this potentially illegal tying arrangement, but as the letter to Walsh states, “to date, LexisNexis’ response has been vague, incomplete, and unsatisfactory, evincing no interest or intent to revoke or otherwise modify the practice in question.”

We’re not talking small law firms that LexisNexis is kissing off.  Jean O’Grady, senior director of information, research and knowledge services at DLA Piper and former chair of the Private Law Libraries Section of AALL, reports from her blog that she’s seen LexisNexis take “an increasingly combative stance” in contract negotiations with customers like her firm.

Greg Lambert, chief knowledge services officer at Jackson Walker, shares on his blog, that what LexisNexis is doing in tying Advance and other products such as Law360 is going to serve as a wake up call to firm leaders that LexisNexis is harming the industry and is only trying to prop up a product that cannot stand on its own.

If LexisNexis were talking and listening to its customers, they’d not be exerting this “kiss off, we’ve got a monopoly” approach.

It’s not just at the sales and business development level where LexisNexis folks are refusing to talk, it’s an attitude that’s top down from company leadership.

I’m not sure I know what Mike Walsh looks like, let alone have I ever read one of his blog posts, mutually shared thoughts with him on Twitter or engaged him on LinkedIn or Facebook.

If not Walsh, who then in LexisNexis leadership engages folks on the Internet. Who develops trust for the company? Who gets out and shows that the company cares? Who from LexisNexis has engaged leaders in the library and knowledge field enough that that these folks enjoy taking your call or having a drink with you at next month’s AALL annual conference.

I get it. “I’m the CEO. I’m the Executive VP of Sales. I don’t have time to get out and engage customers and their influencers such as O’Grady and Lambert on the Internet. I don’t even know how. I have marketing and communications folks handling that.”

What you’re really saying is that I am going to push, trick, and cajole our mediocre products into your hands at as a high a price as a I can get. If that doesn’t work, I’ll force you to take my mediocre stuff by tying it to stuff you really want.

Those days are dead. Marketing and selling today is an online conversation establishing trust and relationships.

It would be great to see Walsh at the AALL annual mingling with customers. Perhaps set up a time to field questions.

Ambrogi is the leading reporter and commenator in legal tech and innovation. He’s known and trusted by AALL members.  I’m sure Ambrogi would be happy to sit down with Walsh for an interview on Facebook Live or otherwise.

In face of what O’Grady calls a revolt by the AALL, “LexisNexis should open up about its policies,” says Ambrogi. “Neither it nor its customers are well served by its keeping its lips sealed.”

Ambrogi’s right. LexisNexis owes the legal profession that much.

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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