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Bloomberg Takes on Wexis With New Research Service

The business-news network Bloomberg will launch a new legal research service later this month, Bloomberg Law, to compete head-on with those other giants of legal research, Westlaw and LexisNexis. The news comes by way of Elie Mystal at Above the Law, who writes that the service has been in development for several years and will be unveiled at a party later this month in the New York City office of Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

Bloomberg Law distinguishes itself from other research services by emphasizing its integration of legal content with real-time news and business intelligence. Here is how its Web site puts it:

The all-in-one legal research platform that integrates legal content with proprietary news and business intelligence from the world leader in data and information services. It's completely integrated. Completely customizable. And above all, completely user-friendly. It's the first and only real-time legal research system for the 21st century legal practice.

Without having seen the actual product, it certainly looks like Bloomberg has loaded it with all the right bells and whistles. These include:

  • A citator, to check whether a case is still good law
  • Integrated search, allowing a single search across all databases
  • Points of law, Bloomberg's version of headnotes
  • Collaborative workspaces, for storing, organizing and sharing research
  • A Law Digest, for treatise-style searching by topic
  • Practice-area pages, to serve as gateways for topic-specific research
  • Dockets. I cannot find any details on which dockets it will include
  • Company and market information from the Bloomberg network
  • Real-time news updates from the Bloomberg network

I checked in with the blogosphere to see whether anyone had given Bloomberg Law a try. I found a June review at Legal Research Plus by Paul Lomio, library director at Stanford Law School. His verdict: "There were some features I really liked, such as the 'Workspace,' but overall I was not impressed by the new interface. The overall style is drab, and I just didn't see many bells and whistles to compete with LexisNexis and Westlaw. I was really hoping for more."

A much-different perspective is provided by Ryan McKeen at A Connecticut Law Blog, who says Bloomberg offered him a test run after he wrote a post critical of Westlaw. "The difference between Westlaw and Bloomberg Law is the difference between a Motorola Razr and an iPhone," he raved. "Bloomberg Law is more web 2.0. ... The interface is slick and well designed. The menus are intuitive and the search results produce relevant case law."

With more and more movement toward open-sourcing legal research and plenty of real-time news and business intelligence easily available, I have to wonder whether there is need for another propriety service on this scale. I have not tried it and know nothing about its pricing. I like the feature list and the idea of a slicker, more Web 2.0-style interface, but I have to wonder about the business model and whether Bloomberg can sustain it.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 7, 2009 at 10:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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