“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information
and make it useful. This was a collection of content
that was not accessible and well-organized.” He says
Google Scholar was designed to make the information
accessible for ordinary citizens. The company has no
current plans to do more with the information than
what is already available.
Google’s database allows users to search its content
against any words, concepts or citations and will pull up
opinions related to the searcher’s query. The results are
ranked by relevance. Citations in the opinions are hy-perlinked to other opinions. The results also provide
links to other Google databases, such as books and law
reviews, to help searchers get context.
But Google Scholar does not provide any sort of system to check the validity of the case, nor does it offer
any type of taxonomy of the case.
Klau goes so far as to question the value of Google
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS BROENING
Scholar to practicing lawyers: “The two
primary for-pay services provide tremen-
dous value to their users and help you
better understand and consume infor-
mation, like whether an
still valid. Those
are things that practitioners rely on
and will continue to rely on.”
Despite Klau’s protestations, others in
the legal information sector are watching
Google. “You are always very conscious of
what Google is doing because the company
has immense resources available,” says
Warwick of Thomson Reuters.
TESTING THE LIMITS
PRICE—PARTICULARLY DURING A RECES-
sion—may be the ultimate competitive
advantage. For the time being, the companies are mum on what the new platforms
will cost lawyers. As of late December,
West had not priced its new platform, but
the company said when the platform is
launched it will only be available as an upgrade. LexisNexis had not determined its
pricing, but company representatives said
many of the features on the new platform
might be made available on an a la carte
basis. Bloomberg declined to comment.
Walters of Fastcase says the others
should pay attention to his company because it is proof of the power of the bottom
line. Fastcase offers subscriptions for as
little as $95 per month.
Then, of course, there is Google’s unbeatable price of free.
Assuming neither the new West nor LexisNexis platform delivers a knockout blow to the other, the most
interesting competition may be where price matters
least—at the top of the market with newcomer
Bloomberg, some observers say.
At the biggest law firms, the companies may be testing the limits of how much information beyond pure
legal research content is too much.
Fried Frank’s Rine may have already reached her
limit. “It’s a challenge. You have to make such an investment in these products. And they keep adding
more and more content, often duplicating what’s included in other services we already subscribe to. But
we don’t necessarily need all that content, and we can’t
continue paying different vendors for the same information,” she says. ■
February 2010 ABA JOURNAL 65