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Global Perspectives

I have occasionally sought to highlight the activities and histories of legal and professional publishing businesses which, and/or whose people, I admire, or those which for one reason or another intrigue me or about which I may have some personal knowledge and opinions. Among these articles have been: Driving Mister Butterworth – 200 Years of Law Publishing; Tolley – Cento Anni!; Not All Animals Are Equal; Then There Were Two; A Most Ordinary Curriculum Vitae.

One such publisher is London-based but internationally targeted, Globe Law and Business. I am happy to declare a minor and arm’s-length interest in relation to the business, being, purely as a contractor, the editor of their journal, Modern Legal Practice. However, beyond that, apart from knowing and respecting the work of the people involved, I have no special or inside knowledge of the workings, finances, plans and strategies of the business. For present purposes, my observations are from a healthy and disinterested distance and they may not even be accurate.

Globe Law and Business was established in 2005, at that time as part of Globe Business Media Group, which itself has recently been acquired by Law Business Research Ltd., a portfolio company of Levine Leichtman Capital Partners. Then, in 2015, Globe Law and Business’s managing director, Sian O’Neill, organised a management buyout from its previous owners. This was with Jim Smith (not the other one at Thomson Reuters), who took on the role of chairman of the newly established company, to continue its strong focus on acquiring content and developing authorship. With aggregated experience gained at Thomson Reuters, Lexis Nexis, Bloomsbury, Wolters Kluwer, Informa and elsewhere, the pair and their other colleagues are steeped in in the professional publishing world.

My experience tells me that, even apart from the tactical and strategic plans of their managements, market forces play a significant part in creating direction and the character of publishing businesses. To me, Globe Law and Business shows its strengths and market emphasis in areas such as equity, trusts, private client and international family offices business, financial, corporate and insolvency law, energy and resources law and others, including the business of law. This is in part evidenced, purely by way of example, by some of its impressive published titles, such as: Company Formation; Directors’ Liability and Indemnification; Joint Operating Agreements; Law and Business of Liquified Natural Gas; Oil and Gas; Private Equity; Trusts in Prime Jurisdictions. Which of these and others represent greater and lesser critical and financial success, I do not know, but the overall portfolio is certainly extensive.

For these and many other titles which Globe Law and Business publishes, it continues to be successful in attracting and being favoured by some of the leading legal writers internationally, including practitioners, academics and law practice experts from all parts of the English-speaking world and from Common Law, Civil Law and other legal traditions. Some of this success might be in part attributable to the mutual benefits of, over the years, maintaining excellent working relationships with the International Bar Association, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and other such bodies, as well as the members of them. I have no doubt that this helps to ensure the quality and quantity of the pool of authors and editors, which results in the high standards required to compete in the market.

It is almost impossible not to be impressed by the activities and achievements of publishers such as Globe Law and Business. In a David and Goliath environment, with such formidable competitors as Thomson Reuters and Lexis Nexis, hardly to mention the two or three tiers below it and faced with the additional competitor factor of technical solutions’ providers, success is attainable, but it does not come easily and without pain. I have no doubt that high revenue and profits are difficult nowadays to achieve in this market sector, but the joy is to watch steadfast and committed people battle to strengthen and grow their projects. I know, from the handful of their authors and editors with whom I have discussed Globe Law and Business, that there seems to be a great deal of praise for it. I am sure that, as with any business, mistakes and errors of judgment have been and will be made but I am inclined to think that the positive factors substantially exceed any negative ones.

Although, to a significant extent, Globe Law and Business’s publications are available in both print and e-book formats, with its journals being accessible via the Ingenta Connect online platform, many would view it as a fairly traditional law publisher, in terms of its use of technology. This is hardly surprising, not least because of the continuing demand for excellent law books and journals in print and electronic formats but possibly also because of the difficulties of simultaneously concentrating on and funding current and expensive future technologies and maintaining relevant expertise for both. In this context it is interesting, though, to read how law book content still seems to be valued, in combination with other technology, by a market leader like Thomson Reuters, as well as by the newer technical providers, hungry for content. The evidence in similar on the business-to-business side of legal information provision, as, for example, ALM announces the addition of further content from legal publications to Law.com and indications are that the Solicitors Journal magazine, shuttered in 2017 by Wilmington PLC, will relaunch. As for Bloomberg, it seems to want to exit the print business (except, notably, for its treatise product line). The pace of change is referred to, by Joe Hodnicki, as “stumbling toward digital-only legal publishing”. Indeed, for smaller providers such as Globe Law and Business, it may be, ironically, that its positioning on the technology scale mirrors real life in legal practice around the world, where books still predominate. Just as one might imagine the traditional publisher longing to be more technologically advanced, while seeking to avoid the squabbling surrounding it, one sees also the desire for the newer providers and indeed the Goliaths to acquire established content created and curated by the smaller ones. It is the former that may therefore become the global commissioning editors of the future.

What the future holds is only and ever a matter for speculation. Depending on the combination of what customers look for in their ideal professional information providers, Globe Law and Business and other “specialist delicatessens” like it might represent the very best means by which to serve lawyers and librarians or perhaps they are a progressively dwindling niche; time and the evolving market will tell. What is certain is that the job is not becoming any easier, notably in terms of ever more challenging ways of trying to interpret and satisfy customer needs, market print publications and generally in trying to reach and retain customers. For now though, at least, I have no doubt that what they provide and how they do it are greatly appreciated.

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