Column

The Never Ending Search for New Markets & Alliances

As the world’s economy heads inexorably for another meltdown it’s instructive to see where the management teams of the larger legal publishers are looking in order to try and keep shareholders and boards happy in the final quarter of 2011.

Two immediate examples come to mind and make us wonder where they can go next.

Option 1 : New International Markets

Now the press releases about China have died down as the publishers (like the rest of us) have realized it’s actually much harder to make money in the PRC than initially thought. Especially so when you have to spend your entire working budget keeping Chinese government departments, publishers and people happy rather than selling direct into market as you had hoped.

So goodbye China as a major growth are and hello the Middle East. Well , not the entire Middle East. The Gulf States, to be exact.

In my post “Westlaw’s Arab Autumn” we reported on Westlaw’s recent launch of Westlaw Gulf, which they describe as “a new legal research service created specifically for the legal professionals in the Middle East”.

The promo goes into standard legal publisher speak with talk of a “full suite”, “an unrivaled database of legislation and cases”. What isn’t the least surprising is the fact that criminal or civil law issues aren’t really covered. Rather it’s all about Westlaw Gulf providing “lawyers with expertly written English translations of over 8,000 of the most commercially relevant and widely used laws from major Gulf States, including Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.”

The very obvious subtext reads: We’re happy to work with politically repressive states with lots of oil revenue on commercial legal information but in no way are we going to threaten perceived future revenues by actually publishing legal information that might relate for example to Women’s Rights, The Rights Of Religious Minorities, The Rights Of Foreign Workers, Family Law and so on and so forth.

Why do I mention the above? Because it seems to me that nobody at Westlaw has bothered to turn on CNN International, BBC and Al Jazeera over the past 8 months and had a serious think about what will be the results of the mass political movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya , Syria as well as the changes afoot in Morocco and Jordan. I know there’s money in corporate and commercial law in the Gulf States, but how about wider publishing initiatives in civil rights legislation and and family law, for example, in these new or soon to be fledgling democracies. They will remember you for it in the future.

Option 2: Ally Yourself With A Well Known Brand

If you are looking for a company who have tried everything in the last 36 months to attempt to keep their relevance in legal publishing, I’d suggest that Martindale Hubbell would top that list . And now through their connections they have landed what I imagine they think is their golden marketing goose.

This past week they’ve announced via a press release that:

LexisNexis (www.lexisnexis.com), a leading provider of content and technology solutions, today announced an agreement with Fortune Magazine and ALM Media Properties to help them compile and publish a “Top Ranked Law Firms” special report to appear in Fortune’s December 26 “Investor’s Guide” issue. The list of firms recognized in the report will also be featured on CNNMoney.comlaw.com and martindale.com®.

It’s another attempt to keep their ever-fading profile up in our books, and if I were a shareholder I wouldn’t be that impressed by that news. What I’d be more interested to know is will MH be generating revenue from this approach or is it actually going to cost them money?

Finally as I’m enjoying being a bit anti-establishment in this post I’d like to suggest that Bloomberg Legal be evicted from all legal libraries until Occupy Wall Street protestors are allowed to return with tents and sleeping bags to Zuccotti park.

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