Column

Christmas Comes Early for Lexis Employees in the USA

You’re probably wondering what presents LexisNexis are doling out at this time of year.

Well being LN it’s the surprise that they usually roll out at yuletide for a percentage of their employees: the wonderful state of unemployment.

This time though they’ve decided to roll Christmas according to reports on Above The Law and The Dayton Daily News.

Here’s what Marc Osborn their spokesman told the Dayton Daily News this past week.

LexisNexis continuously reviews its needs, operations and other factors to identify what resources and services are necessary to optimally support our customers and improve business operations. As a result of this ongoing process, we regularly build teams in certain areas of the business and reduce in others to be able to deliver next-generation solutions to customers. On balance, the total number of employees across the LexisNexis business remains consistent with prior years.

Osborn added:

Regarding Dayton, our company has a long history of operations and innovation in Ohio. The Dayton, Ohio (Miamisburg) site continues to be the largest Reed Elsevier and LexisNexis site globally. We remain committed to our flagship facility in Dayton and LexisNexis is making tremendous investments in our business and technology in Dayton with our New Lexis initiatives, which include the Lexis Advance product among others.

At Law Librarians News / House of Butter we don’t believe as Above The Law do that the layoffs are only due to the fact that there’s a squeeze on law firms once again and that “big law” as the say in the USA has had to shed jobs in 2013.

It certainly isn’t 2008/9 but there is indeed a contraction in the US legal market at the big end of town and not just in North America. Australian firms are being forced ( and we use that word deliberately) into mergers with the bigger UK & US firms, a state of affairs an Australian law firm could not even have conceived of a few years ago.

Instead, however, I believe that there are two maybe three major factors in this latest round of job cuts at Lexis in the USA

A) Preparation for sale

B) Further moves away from publishing and content and more emphasis on technology

C) Further outsourcing plans

It appears to me that Reed are ever hopeful that they can offload all of LN or parts of it and are desperate to do so. The problem is that Lexis Nexis is too cumbersome, too expensive to buy and, let’s be honest, who can afford to or has the skill set to take on LN at the moment. Obviously the company is of no use to Thompson Reuters Legal; Bloomberg don’t (and I suggest wouldn’t) need all the extra fluff that comes with the company; Wolters Kluwer law don’t have the money and I should imagine don’t want a millstone like that around their neck.

So… how about the likes of Google, Apple etc.? If any of the tech companies ever decide to enter the market they are aware that it’ll be cheaper for them to buy other sources of content and organize and distribute in a way that suits them rather than purchase a company created and built in another time and all the headaches that come along with that. That leaves private investment vehicles and, honestly, legal and professional publishing just isn’t sexy — especially not so at the moment — so it’d have to be an investor with a raft of ideas to develop the business rather than the standard “let’s buy the company and count the money” approach . . . and those investors are rarer than a needle in a haystack these days.

One thing that has changed over the years (and we are ever grateful for it) is the fact that the bigger legal content providers have become more honest and upfront about changes they are making, or are forced to make, as technology changes the way they work for and with law firms around the world. LN, like their competitors, have decided that they must become more technology orientated to survive and so I think it comes as a surprise to no-one that natural attrition with regard to human resources will happen as they make these changes. It’s just a bit of a shame that some of the older content and editorial workers aren’t being retrained to manage some of these technology companies that fall under the LN umbrella. Our personal experience of generation whatever they are now . . . x, y, z, z+1? . . . is that they may well be whizzes at binary number solutions but by God they are useless when it comes to organization, management and simple communication with clients as human being to human being.

I think it’s a huge loss when legal publishers get discarded. Soon there’ll be none left and at board level I do think the publishers will come to rue the day that the legal publishing individual becomes extinct. Like vinyl records and cassette tapes they may be a bit cranky, scratched and hiss at you; but like the 20th century audio formats they will give you quality that goes on for ever

Which leads us to the issue of continued outsourcing to Asia. We presume there’ll be a quiet announcement sometime in the next 9 weeks that LN have taken on more outsourced workers in the Philippines, India, Bangladesh. It really doesn’t matter where the workers are based in Asia; they will be employed to process the work with the minimum amount of interaction with the client and the minimum amount of input into the intellectual property base of Lexis Nexi . . . essentially drones. Well-trained drones, to be sure, but drones all the same. Not the way to create the legal publishing /content company of the 21st century. But then again maybe that’s not the aim at board level. As seasoned watchers of the company will know Stasi-like secrecy had been a company trait they’ve never been able to shake, so all of us outsiders will just have to wait and see what happens next.

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Comments

  1. Interesting comments and, as ever, good to read. In my own next Slaw column, due for publication on September 3, I’m rather taking bets that the chance of a Lexis Nexis sell-off in the foreseeable future is zero, so I reckon we are in agreement. The one after that, currently in draft, certainly agrees with your point, probably less elegantly put, that the likes of them are perhaps doing not as much as they should to train people to be “publishers”, as opposed to whatever it is they are.

  2. This is just too fabulous! “Like vinyl records and cassette tapes they may be a bit cranky, scratched and hiss at you; but like the 20th century audio formats they will give you quality that goes on for ever.”
    But should I take this comment personally? (We are certainly trying to provide quality that goes on for ever … on the other hand, I do try not to be too cranky.)

  3. The missing link in this post is the utter failure of the Lexis Advance product. RE used LN as a cash cow for so long that the company lost any technological edge. When things got so bad that RE had to invest, the company a) no longer had any internal technological skill and b) had no product skill. These combined to create the mess that is Lexis Advance.

    After all the investment, RE expects more profits. LA sucks so badly that it does not and will not grow revenue. Thus, the massive cuts. Expect to see even bigger cuts next year.

    Right now LN is in CYA mode. All of the top management is in place because of their connection with the perceived success of Lexis Advance. As soon as the RE gets wind of reality, they will all be out the door. In the mean time, they company is trying to produce increased profits through layoffs. This is not a realignment. You can only cut out the library once. You can gut R&D a few times. After that, reality hits. When you see people responsible for the LA debacle being cut, you will know that RE has started to catch on.

    In regard, RE selling LN—There is nothing left of LN except content. A buyer would need to:
    a. Get rid of the incompetent product team.
    b. Create a development team from scratch so the company is not at the mercy of vendors
    c. Create a product platform that is not so ponderous that it takes forever to get new product features up.
    d. Totally rebuild business systems
    e. Create a new product that customers won’t hate.

    The reality of LN’s long term viability has not reached RE yet. I doubt they are looking for a stiff yet to buy this turkey.

  4. The heart of the matter is that LexisNexis is simply not a software company. They just don’t have the DNA — and it’s not in their Org Chart.

  5. I’m a little confused reading the various comments about Lexis Advance here and elsewhere. If it is the case as Andrew Roberts outlines and other blogs have stated, how do you account for the many awards Lexis has garnered recently as published here? I’d appreciate any clarity on this.