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Survey shows what firms want from their legal research subscriptions

Law library budget survey and trends

January 31, 2023

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law library survey

LAC Group surveyed select law firms from October to December 2022 to determine general resource budgetary aims and standards. The survey received 29 responses overall. The firms surveyed indicate an interest in maintaining lower costs amid recent inflation and increased market costs. In terms of question responses, the survey found the following key results:

  1. 50 percent of the responding firms subscribed to Westlaw and Lexis, as opposed to a single source provider.
  2. Over 75 percent of respondents have upgraded one or more legal research subscriptions.
  3. Regarding plans for upcoming legal spending on legal research over the next year, approximately 50 percent of respondents noted they expect to keep spending about the same amount as they do now.
  4. When asked where firms would like their legal research sources to provide greater value, over 90 percent would like to see lower costs, over 60 percent would like more analytics, and over 50 percent would like more content and improved coverage.
  5. Respondents indicated they had a mix of digital and print rather than digital access only.

Survey results

Firm size

Of the 29 respondents, only two elected not to list their current size. Of those who divulged, the attorney count sizes included the following:

Attorney size

Subscribed legal research resources

Between Westlaw and Lexis, the survey inquired which resources firms currently subscribe to. The graph shows the responses based on 26 respondents. As the results indicate, based on LAC Group’s experience, it is common for most firms to be subscribed to both providers. However, if a firm relies solely on one source, it is more common for firms to choose Westlaw above Lexis as their preferred provider.

Upgraded resources

Out of the 26 responses received, 80 percent of firms noted that they had upgraded at least one of their legal research subscriptions (including licenses such as Westlaw to Westlaw Edge or Lexis to Lexis Plus). Only six firms reported that they had not upgraded their information services.

Plans for legal research spending in the next year

LAC Group expects firms to primarily aim to reduce existing costs rather than expand accessible services as market prices for legal information services continue to increase. During the survey, 15 of the total survey respondents indicated the following plans for upcoming research spending, displayed in the table below:

Legal research sources value

When asked what greater value firms would like to access in their legal research and information subscriptions, as with the question above, the majority of the 13 respondents noted they are interested in keeping their costs low, but most were also interested in increased analytics and content within their current subscriptions.

Legal research sources value

Information resources in digital or print?

Of the 13 respondents who replied to this question, all noted that they have a mix of digital and print information resources rather than digital resources alone. It is LAC’s experience that many firms are generally attempting to reduce their print and rely heavier on digital content while strategically maintaining physical access to some key content.

Why does this matter?

The survey results reveal that firms are clear in their goals and would like to realize greater value from their legal research sources.

But with the growing complexity of the legal market, increased demand for highly specialized legal services (and the information resources to support them), and firm leadership demands to see progress each renewal year, LAC is fully aware of how difficult it is to achieve these desired results using only internal library resources.

Just as firms have made significant investments in growing specialized practice areas to meet the needs of their clients, so have the information resource providers – developing proprietary resources to meet the unique needs of the modern law practice. These developments have increased the cost and complexity of their offerings, and navigating these waters to determine “the right fit” for each firm is becoming increasingly difficult without a more expansive and experienced view of the entire market. A strategic library resources partner can provide that perspective.

In addition, we anticipate the following obstacles in reaching the outcomes expressed by the firms in the survey:

  1. Inflationary pressure is pushing up the average cost of baseline renewals at 5-7 percent.
  2. The move from print to digital does not always promote savings unless handled correctly across the contract.
  3. Insightful data is not always available from the vendors or easily harvested by already stretched internal library resources.
  4. Effective training that maximizes the value of firm subscriptions while limiting additional research costs that cannot be passed on to the client is often not internally available (or is it always obvious where to focus the training).

So, what can you do?

Using an experienced strategic advisor in the library space is essential to overcoming these headwinds and maximizing the value of a firm’s legal research and information subscriptions.

See what one law firm client had to say about our strategic assistance:

❝“LAC Group has gone above and beyond as a partner. They were with us each step of the way when we decided to re-evaluate our main legal research provider. From usage reviews to focus groups and surveys, from RFPs to negotiations — they helped handle all the small details of the deal. Not only did they bring their knowledge to the table, they helped secure the best package of products for our firm’s needs and helped save over $1m. The quality service and significant savings achieved is a winning combination.”❞
Joseph Fousek, Chief Information Officer
Bond, Schoeneck & King in Syracuse, NY

While the objectives stated in the survey seem almost impossible to achieve without external support and insight, the cost of that help is a hedge against runaway library costs.

How can we help?

Here are ways LAC Group has supported the top law firms in making the most of their information resources:

Benchmark the vendors and the firms to provide insight into negotiating bundles that work for the firm and their clients.

Identify redundancies across the firm’s subscriptions to save costs and counterbalance inflationary pressure.

Provide expertise on the migration from print to digital and negotiate contract terms related to this transition that follow the standard by firms that have already navigated the journey with LAC’s assistance.

Make sense of user data and generate useful reports that identify inefficient usage, and then develop targeted training to address the use cases and users driving additional firm costs.

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