Current Awareness Trend Continues (or ends): WestlawNext’s “Practitioner Insights” & Alerts Center *UPDATED*

by Jason Wilson on January 28, 2013

“Current awareness is the knowledge of recent developments in a field. This is crucial for any professional, even more in our markets. Without a knowledge of the latest developments, a person loses the competitive edge associated with lifelong learning, new electronic communication and business transactions, and better job performance.”  Ornella Zampieri, Project Manager & Content Architect, Electronic Publishing, Wolters Kluwer Italia.

At the Thomson Reuters Bloggers Summit a couple of weeks ago, the ever charming Allison Guidette, managing director, Large Law Firms, unveiled Practitioner Insights, a new product created in collaboration with Wolters Kluwer that will be provided through WestlawNext. Practitioner Insights are essentially practice area pages that include legal analysis (“practical, focused analysis of specific legal issues”), industry news, and other real-time information, such as litigation tracking. There is a dedicated editorial staff for the product and a number of outside practicing attorneys who create Insight content. When it launches (and we received no information about pricing), Insight will cover—on a national, not state, basis—employment, IP, health, and pharma. Other areas, like bankruptcy, will follow throughout the year.

Perhaps even more exciting for large law firms is WLN’s new alerts center management dashboard. For the life of me I can’t remember what they call the dashboard (let’s say, “Alerts Center”), but through it WLN users will be able to create customized newsletters, including branding, for practice area groups and clients, set time-out dates, manage distribution lists more effectively, and a host of other features. This is great news for firm librarians, as managing alerts has been a pain in the ass for a number of years. One of the drawbacks though, in my opinion, continues to be that newsletters put together for clients would require them to have WLN accounts to view content. I’ve argued that clients should get first-look access because it would actually make newsletters useful as informational marketing pieces. It’s annoying to get a newsletter from someone that requires me to have access to the pay wall to finish viewing content.

After seeing glimpses of the product offerings, I’m having a hard time reconciling them with Bloomberg Law’s Practice Centers, which provide access to BNA analytical resources, primary law search, news alerts, Bloomberg news, podcasts, and infographics. In fact, TR pages are getting dangerously close to the same color scheme of Bloomberg Law, and it makes me wonder why they are trying so hard to compete with something that hasn’t seen widespread adoption?

l-and-e-practice-center

At the end of the day, I’m not really sure what all of this “current awareness” marketing means to the average lawyer. In his latest book (review forthcoming) Tomorrow’s Lawyers, Richard Susskind points out—

“In most large jurisdictions, approximately 40 percent of the law firms are run by sole practitioners and about 75 percent have four partners or fewer.”

I don’t know if these are UK statistics or global statistics, but they ring pretty true for the US market, and I haven’t seen a lot of interest from small or mid-law for practice-oriented legal pages (particularly ones that don’t offer local or state content). I’m not suggesting they aren’t useful (I’m a news junkie after all, and have a very full RSS), but I just don’t see them as profit centers for companies wishing to become software vendors. Where do these sit in a legal services market struggling to redefine itself? Is fracturing news and information, primary law, and analytical content into practice area “centers” the future of legal publishing? (For a really good example of fracturing+ and whether it makes sense at all, check out Nicole Black’s post today on Lexis’ new Lexis Advance MedMal Navigator.)

At the end of the day, I see this as something that Thomson Reuters “has to do” because BLaw has them as does LexisNexis (e.g., through Transactional Advisor), which simply means they are late to the game. Whatever that is.

**UPDATE**

I’ve just received a press release announcing TR’s joint project with CQ Roll Call to bring in CQ’s coverage of securities, banking, and energy policy developments in the federal regulatory agencies and Congress. The product will be called “Washington Briefings” and will be made available through WestlawNext Practitioner Insights.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out Wolters Kluwer’s very own Daily Reporting Suite, which delivers to the busy practitioner “breaking news and expert analysis” for antitrust, employment, health, IP, and securities.

So more current awareness goodness for all you junkies out there. Now, what’s it all worth to you?

[Image (CC) by Martina Yach]

 

 

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