Although 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.
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.
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  and  ([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 #) is more expensive than the one that includes All Analytical (Package #) (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.
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  & , 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  does contain different information than Package . 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.
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  omits three items that are in package  is incorrect. The following is copied directly from [my rep’s] March 5 e-mail (I have added the red highlighting).
All Cases & Statutes NY Gold w/Regs Plus
All Analytical Library
All Cases & Statutes NY Gold w/Regs Plus
National Secondary Sources—Premium
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.