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Westlaw Reps Don’t Know their A$$es From their Elbows When it Comes to WestlawNext Packages and Pricing

WestlawNextAlthough I haven’t posted about my WestlawNext upgrade negotiations in a few weeks, things have been going on behind the scenes. Or, perhaps more accurately, they haven’t.

The Background

Before you read further, if you’re not familiar with my previous posts about WestlawNext pricing—My WestlawNext Upgrade Negotiations: Proof that West Isn’t Interested in the Solo Market and WestlawNext Pricing Information and Reaction from Firm Law Librarians—I encourage you to read them now. In case you don’t have time, here’s the abridged version:

Here’s what my Westlaw plan looked like as of early February (this month, a scheduled price increase brought the total cost up to $514):

[table “1” not found /]

Here is the pricing breakdown for three proposals my Westlaw rep set to me on February 8 (all monthly prices have been adjusted to reflect the 45% discount I would get for being willing to sign a new 3-year contract at this time):

[table “2” not found /]

After some back-and-forth discussion with my sales rep, I moved up the Thomson Reuters food chain to my sales rep’s manager. On February 11, the sales manager discovered that my rep had “failed to mention” that the pricing in the preceding chart was “introductory pricing” that was valid only until February 28th. He also asked me to keep the negotiations confidential. On February 13, I asked the sales manager what the prices would be as of March 1. On February 22, the sales manager told me that the post-February 28 prices for all of the WestlawNext plan components included in the second chart above had not yet been released.

The Update

As soon as March 1 rolled around, I once again asked for the pricing for all of the WestlawNext plan components included in the second chart above. On March 5, my sales rep responded with prices that were not broken down by plan component.

I responded with an e-mail reminding him that I had requested the pricing for all of the WestlawNext plan components included in the second chart above. And I waited. And I waited.

Last week, I spoke to him on the phone and requested the same information. And I waited. And I waited.

On Monday, I e-mailed the sales manager, asking for the same information. The good news is that I got a quick response. The bad news is, here’s the response I got:

We can’t break out pricing by component. Pricing is derived based on the totality of the package and those prices are provided to you below [i.e., in my rep’s previous e-mail].

Oh, really? I shot back:

With all due respect, [my rep] previously broke out the pricing by component. Therefore, I know you can do it.

When I sat down to draft this post Monday night, I realized that my sale’s rep’s March 5 e-mail gave a price for a package (which I’ll call 3b) that wasn’t included in the first round of proposals.

[table “3” not found /]

As mentioned above, West refused to provide updated prices for plan components in the updated packages; I calculated the figures in the chart above using the ratio of the prices of the plan components as stated in the first round of proposals to the total plan prices in that round. Additionally, to facilitate comparison and analysis, in this post, I changed the numbering of the packages from the numbering my rep used in his second round of proposals—which doesn’t correspond to the numbering used in the first round of proposals.

As I explained to the sales manager:

There are a number of discrepancies between the content included in the three Proposals included in [my rep’s] February 8 e-mail to me and the content included in [his] March 5 e-mail to me . . . .

* * *
. . . [B]ased on my conversations and correspondence with [my rep], it was my understanding that WestlawNext would not include either Results Plus or Law Reviews & Journals as separately available plans. Please clarify whether: (1) West has changed its mind, and has decided to offer Results Plus and Law Reviews & Journals in WestlawNext; or (2) [my rep] mistakenly included these items in Package [3b] in his March 5 e-mail.

Third, the disparity in prices between Packages [1] and [2] ([in the] March 5) e-mail doesn’t make sense. [My rep] previously explained to me that National Secondary Sources—Premium includes more content than the All Analytical Library. That is backed up by the fact that, in his February 8 proposals, All Analytical was priced at $209.55 while National Secondary Sources—Premium was priced at $419.65. Yet, in the current crop of “Packages,” the package that includes National Secondary Sources—Premium (Package #[2]) is more expensive than the one that includes All Analytical (Package #[1]) (the two packages are otherwise identical).

Finally, as mentioned in my previous e-mail, are the “package” prices quoted in [my rep’s] March 5 e-mail the prices before application of the 45% 3-year contract discount or after application of that discount?

Here’s the sales manager’s response:

You are correct that there were some discrepancies in pricing and content in the multiple communications we’ve had. I apologize for these discrepancies, which were errors on our part. I’m sorry for the confusion.

It appears that the loss of ResultsPlus is the biggest issue for you. ResultsPlus is not available on WestlawNext and there is not an exact equivalent product or functionality. If ResultsPlus is a significant factor in your research process today and if the proposed alternative content in combination with the overall WestlawNext benefits are not a good alternative, I would suggest that you keep your current Westlaw plan.

I realize that you asked for more detail on the discrepancies you noted, but e-mail communication does not lend itself to a consultative and efficient conversation about your preferences, and frankly hasn’t worked out well for you so far. I believe an in-person conversation would provide a better forum to address pricing details and how the benefits of WestlawNext can provide you with a superior research experience.

If you have an interest in WestlawNext in the future, please feel free to call me directly.

And my reply:

Are you refusing to discuss this via e-mail? All I asked for in early March were updated prices for the proposals that [my rep] presented me with in early February. Results Plus is in this discussion because (as you now concede) [my rep] mistakenly included pricing for it in his March 5 e-mail to me.

I am fully familiar with the benefits of WestlawNext. I have neither the time nor the desire to meet face-to-face with you or [my rep]. (Don’t worry about losing a sale because of my refusal to meet with you in person: I’ve signed two three-year contracts without meeting with a Westlaw rep in person.)

The complexity of West’s pricing structure, combined with the fact that the reps clearly are not familiar with what is being offered (as demonstrated by the facts that (1) [my rep] “forgot” to mention that the pricing in his February 8 e-mail expired on February 28; and (2) more than a month after WestlawNext launched, [my rep] quoted me prices for plan components that don’t even exist in WestlawNext) make it necessary to conduct all negotiations in writing.

Furthermore, you have not responded to [my] questions [concerning application of the 45% 3-year contract discount and the disparity in prices between packages 1 and 2].

If you refuse to communicate further with me by e-mail concerning this matter, I request that you put me in touch with your supervisor.

The Questions

Do you think my experience is an accurate reflection of how West is handling its WestlawNext negotiations? Is my rep unusually incompetent? Or is West punishing me for being outspoken about their pricing strategy?

And why hasn’t the “traditional” legal press (i.e., publications like the ABA Journal or the National Law Journal) written anything about WestlawNext pricing? Could West’s substantial advertising spend (and, in the ABA’s case, sponsorship dollars) have anything to do with it?

Update 3/18/10, 10:15 p.m.:

Here’s the latest round of e-mails. First, the sales manager to me:

To verify, Results Plus is not part of WestlawNext and not an option.

I will try to explain the differences between package [1] & [2], but without doing a full needs assessment, it is difficult to recommend the rate package for your needs. This is why a phone call is recommended.

Package [1] does contain different information than Package [2]. You would have access to Regulations Plus which is our annotated CFR; State Jury Instructions and Key Rules. This option has always been the most expensive.

Package 3 takes out those databases.

The All Analytical is less expensive but it does not have State Jury Instructions, Key Rules nor CJS.

The package prices are the final prices. No other discounts would apply.

I hope this answers your questions.

My response:

First, [my rep] did a needs assessment before providing me with proposals on February 8: I explained my goals to him and he reviewed my usage. If you don’t understand my needs, you should speak to [my rep].

Second, your statement that Package [2] omits three items that are in package [1] is incorrect. The following is copied directly from [my rep’s] March 5 e-mail (I have added the red highlighting).

Package #[1]:
All Cases & Statutes NY Gold w/Regs Plus
All Analytical Library
Price: $1102.14/month

Package #[2]:
All Cases & Statutes NY Gold w/Regs Plus
National Secondary Sources—Premium
Price: $909.48/month

Both packages include annotated regulations. Are you telling me that the only difference between All Analytical and National Secondary Sources – Premium is that the latter also includes State Jury Instructions and Key Rules? If so, that is inconsistent with [my rep’s] February 9 e-mail to me, in which he stated: “Re: The difference between All Analytical and National Secondary Sources, premium, is primarily the restatements and CJS. I haven’t cross checked all the databases (the list is too long), but those are the major titles.”

Third, the proposal in the February 8 e-mail containing All Analytical was less expensive than the package containing National Secondary Sources—Premium ($567.05 v. $777.15). As you can see from the above, with the new packages, the one containing All Analytical is now more expensive than the one containing National Secondary Sources—Premium. That (and not the fact that the two plans aren’t the same price) is what doesn’t make sense.

Fourth, you still have not addressed my request for a breakdown of the prices into plan components.

Your inability to get your facts correct and your refusal to respond to a simple request for a detailed breakdown of the package pricing (despite the fact that [my rep] previously provided me with precisely that information in connection with the original proposals) is wasting my time. Please advise me of the name of your supervisor.

Unfortunately, the huge gaping hole of information about WestlawNext pricing also exists in the heads of those trying to sell the product.

Comments (21)

  1. Reply Mike Gort

    Maybe I’m old school, but watching you negotiations and the others that have posted concerning West Law Next, and going through my own trip down the rabbit hole with Lexis-Nexis makes it almost impossible to make any informed choices. I’m just happy I have a handy, available law school library for secondary sources and for the rest.


  2. […] your case). Alternatively, Westlaw and Lexis offer very attractive legal search options… for a couple hundred dollars per query. Google drove a truck through this wall when they rolled out legal opinion search in […]

  3. Reply Bill Parker

    I was formerly a LexisNexis small law rep in Los Angeles. I will say that there are great benefits to switching legal research providers every three years. Most of which is that you are guaranteed to get the best pricing. It may also be time to consider FastCase. Its a great case law product at a great price. The disadvantage is the loss of treatises and practice guides. If you need public records is only 25 cents per search and $5 for a comprehensive report. The alternatives to West and Lexis are out there and getting better all the time.

  4. Reply Elaine Maciel

    My cell phone number is 707-496-5573. I am working only on a part time on one case and need to obtain west law but cannot afford then prices you have indicated. Any suggestions?

  5. Reply Joe Marmeladov

    I’ve never read your blog before but this is totally awesome.

  6. Reply Daryl

    Yes, this is sadly the strategy of complex pricing implied by both West and Lexis.

  7. Reply Howard

    Try With the current promotion, you can have access to over 7 million cases, statues, regulations, rules of the entire nation for only $5/mo.

  8. Reply Michael

    Howard, I don’t see that… they’re saying it’s a $680/year subscription.

  9. Reply Travieso Bailey

    Why not simply sublease your westlaw or lexis nexus subscription to others?
    Law Students get there subscription for free.
    Why not just pay a law student $50 a month for their password?

  10. Reply Lisa Solomon

    Travieso, what you’re suggesting is a violation of the user agreement.

  11. Reply Travieso Bailey

    I am suggesting sharing information to a larger group of people. The way information should be shared.

  12. Reply Lisa Solomon

    LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters (which owns WestlawNext) add editorial content to cases, which has value for which the companies are entitled to be paid. They also both publish secondary sources, which also have value.

    Today, there are many free sources of caselaw, statutes and regulations on the web (Google Scholar is one such source). In fact, I wrote a chapter about subscription and free legal research resources for an e-book that will soon be published by MyCase. I’ll be promoting the book, once it’s published, on Twitter (@lisasolomon).

  13. Reply Travieso Bailey

    Alternative compensation system

    The archaic intellectual property system that you defend and hope to benefit from, is archaic and holds back human ingenuity and progress.
    No one should have a monopoly on the law, including Westlaw.

  14. Reply Travieso Bailey


    Alternative compensation system

    The intellectual property system that you defend and hope to benefit from is archaic and holds back human ingenuity and progress.
    No one should have a monopoly on the law, including Westlaw.

  15. Reply CaseFiler

    I went through a similar odyssey upon graduation from law school, with both Westlaw and Lexis reps. It seems clear that they adhere to opaque and obfuscatory pricing schemes (and I mean “schemes” in the most unflattering way), they will not make a price allowance for a resource I expect use only a handful of times in a year, and they are therefore not interested in solo and small firm business. I’ve made it my mission to master the free and moderately priced newer resources, and will simply make a trip to the local law library for treatise and encyclopedia access. Thompson and Reuters may place their offerings where the sun doesn’t shine.

  16. Reply CaseFiler

    @Howard, where did you find the $5.00 subscription price for Is there a coupon code perhaps? The website is saying $15/month or $120/year.

  17. Reply howard

    The $5/mo. was last year’s price. Current customer could still enjoy this price if renew before expiration. New customer will pay $15/month or $120/year.

  18. Reply Robert Brooks

    I’ve been dealing with West sales reps for years. In my experience it is simply impossible to get a straight answer from any of them to any question. Blood from a turnip. In my practice area, criminal defense, they, unfortunately, own, literally, about 95% of the cite worthy treatises. Nevertheless, as my re-up date approaches in October I am investigating alternatives. I have a good law school library easily accessible and can find the treatises I use there, and a whole lot more I would have to pay West piecemeal for, at exorbitant rates.

  19. Reply Robert Brooks

    My favorite example of West’s “editorial content” involves a Tennessee Supreme Court decision made a major change in landlord liability. The only indexed term that would turn up the case in West’s Keycite system was “dogbite.” Their Keycite system is antiquated, pre-computer, data analysis, and mediocre at best in dealing with the volume of materials available. It can be helpful, but hardly reliable. They must spend a small fortune maintaining it.

    I suggest they invest that money in cutting edge data analysis systems instead. All you have to do is build it and maintain it. You don’t have to analyze a single case.

  20. Reply Max Weinberg

    It seems in Europe the service is not quite as expensive, eg Westlaw UK may be available for 1,500 GBP per year but I agree the pricing policy is not transparent. I haven’t asked for pricing of the US service, though.

  21. Reply Kathleen Genova

    My WestlawNext / Practicepoint (aka Practical Law) rep was helpful, not like the service Lisa apparently received. There was no difficulty in obtaining lists of what was included as renewal time has come around over the years, although I did have to do some comparing/contrasting myself.

    For me, the big frustration is the company’s absolute refusal to consider renewal of a subscription unless there is a price increase of some kind – even if no components of the subscription change and without any representation, let alone evidence, that the company’s costs had increased proportionately. Most recently, I was told the higher-ups were shocked that anyone would think it bad business for prices to automatically increase every year, and that all businesses increase their prices every year (which, of course, is incorrect). After I informed them I had decided to switch providers, the rep indicated she may be able to get a renewal through with only a 1% increase, but there was no way they would renew without at least that.

    Accordingly, after 12 years with Westlaw through its various incarnations, with regular price increases, I have just switched to LexisNexis. This presses the “reset” button on my legal research costs.

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