Old Tricks …

Firstly apologies to all of you who were waiting with bated breath for that final pre-Christmas missive from me with some incisive comments about legal publishing in 2012.

Unfortunately (and very unlike me I should add ) I had absolutely nothing to say about the state of legal publishing in 2012. It has to be said that, for me at least, it was without doubt the dullest year in the industry that I can remember.

Even now, sitting here with my thinking cap on. I can’t really remember one event from the legal publishing calendar last year that immediately springs to mind as something provocative, groundbreaking, interesting or for that matter something that even really annoyed me . . . nothing.

Maybe I’m just getting older and finding the whole affair rather dull.

But in actual fact that’s not the case as I sit here in Hong Kong and follow the development of legal content and its future in this region as China and India step up commercial integration.

Just watching how these two cultures and the systems of law that both countries have developed, adopted and adapted will work in tandem to create a whole new culture of and about the law in this region is fascinating.

What surprises me though is the fact that neither of the big publishers, or for that matter the smaller ones, have managed to see this as an opportunity in publishing and technology terms to develop real excitement about what’s happening.

Dare I suggest that they ( the publishers) use this ever developing set of political and social circumstances to look at the big picture and cogitate on what the future of international commercial law might become as these two giants start to dominate the world’s economy

Do I see or hear the lawyers, legal technologists, publishers and content managers on the TV, on the BBC world service or in the newspapers talking about this future?

Fashion brands, banks, retailers the technology industry and many many others understand this change and shout from the rooftops about it. I know it isn’t the done thing for publishers to yell from rooftops, but they should—and in a Steve Jobs way too. The legal publishing industry needs to engage people in order to think about ways to further explain, distribute and sell content; otherwise there are only two options: deal only with the 23 mega firms in 2019 or simply disappear.

Popular science and history publishers understood this in the 1990’s and many of the non-fiction books we now read come from understanding that it was pointless to rarify information. Instead the option must be to work with real writers and editors to create content that informs and educates both the profession and the wider world.

Unfortunately at the beginning of 2013 I don’t get a sense of this from either of the big publishers as they tweak with further acquisitions that in essence just increase the efficiency of delivery of content to an an ever declining customer base.

I mentioned Steve Jobs earlier and, as I notice the Lexis”isation” of Apple and the way they do business, I hope against hope that the legal publishing industry pushes someone like Jobs to the fore so we can all look at what we do with a new pair of eyes and ears.

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