5 Takeaways from the Annual Start / Stop Survey

Kris Martin | October 11, 2022

HBR Consulting recently held its second annual Legal Information + Knowledge Services (LINKS) Conference. I had the privilege, alongside industry veteran Jean O’Grady, Editor & Author of the Dewey B. Strategic Blog & Director of Research at Venable LLP, and moderator Peggy Chevel, Senior Manager at HBR Consulting, to present findings from this year’s Start / Stop survey. I have previously commented that this survey has for years provided outstanding intelligence and insight into buying patterns of law libraries, but having now reviewed the raw data, I am excited to see how it is overflowing with wonderful nuggets.

Takeaway #1: Analytics Tools are on the Up… and Out

When asked about the best new legal information product, 24% of respondents cited practice-specific analytics products. Two-thirds of these were Litigation analytics products (with Trellis in the pole position), with the remainder being Intellectual Property analytics products (ie. Docket Navigator, IPlytics, etc.). By contrast, for products firms are looking to “stop” 12% answered that they planned to stop using analytics products . Smaller, more bespoke products are on the rise, while larger integrated products are on the chopping block in this next budget cycle. As the legal analytics space matures, buyers are becoming more discerning. While the large providers have invested in robust and well-articulated data, this also comes at a high price to the client. Firms that can’t support user adoption through training and junior level support staff struggle to prove the ROI of these “super tools”.

Takeaway #2: Customer Service Comes First

Respondents were asked what they would like vendors to do more of and, surprisingly, the top answer had more to do with relationship elements than pricing. Leading at 26% of responses was “Proactive customer service including quarterly calls, partnering with researchers, and training”. Firms continue to desire increased partnership with their vendors, as an additional 16% answered that they wish their vendors would “Make efforts to understand pain points”. In line with this, when asked what they would like vendors to stop, the leading answer was “Direct outreach to attorneys at 24%. Through the lens of the prior analytics theme, the conflict here is significant. In my 20 years working with both clients and vendors, trust is at an all-time low. The best path for a provider to understand pain points and provide more integrated service that can ensure the highest achievement of product value is connecting with and listening to users. Vendors have unfortunately conflated customer service with upselling, and thereby burned the bridges needed to better secure product longevity. I can appreciate that the largest vendors may have enough ties to the client that this point may not be as critical, but the rest of the vendors in the space need to look to other role models when constructing their client support philosophy.

Takeaway #3: Print: The Final Nail?

2022 was the first year our annual whitepaper discussing law library priorities made no mention of books or print. 41% of survey respondents reported that they are phasing out print. Earlier this year, we announced our acquisition of a lesser-known electronic library catalog (ILS) called HOLMES, driven by our belief in a shifting mindset on collection management. Few if any firms will ever be truly paperless in the library; however, libraries will now want to rethink the cost and time required to managing a limited print collection alongside a robust and often confusing electronic collection.

Takeaway #4: Train Them and They Will Come

When asked what tasks, processes, and initiatives libraries are starting or planning to start, the primary answer was “Training, onboarding, and offboarding” at over a third (35%) of responses. With hybrid and remote work environments providing unique delivery challenges, firms are putting more resources towards cross-training, continuing education, development of attorney learning paths, and research tips newsletters. This theme around user engagement (which I addressed in a different context earlier) is perhaps one of the most dynamic frontiers for any developing information services professional. Lawyers, especially transactional ones, are increasingly needing to serve as a jack-of-all-trades for their customers. There are massive opportunities for innovation in helping lawyers first surface the right tools for the job at hand, and then know how to effectively use that tool in the moment.

Takeaway #5: And the Acronym of the Year Goes To…

Application programming interfaces or APIs have certainly picked up a lot of buzz this last year. 45% of respondents reported that their organization is utilizing APIs, and of those, a staggering 97% have not canceled an API project to date. Of those not using APIs, 28% are interested in doing so – either investigating, reviewing vendors, or currently developing. Those not interested are primarily reporting bandwidth as a limiting factor (17%), in addition to absence of need (17%) which is likely more a gap in understanding. The most used API vendors are offered by Pitchbook (13%) and CapIQ (13%). It is unclear in the responses how strictly respondents are referring to APIs specifically vs. data feeds in general. Similar to earlier comments around analytics, the larger vendors have made substantial investment in robust data sets and tend to approach the sale of this data via an API as supplemental to their core platform. As firms develop new and innovative use cases for this data as well as proprietary interface for their users and clients, it will be interesting to see if the provider model shifts. We would expect to see the entry of new vendors that are “API native” providing no user interface at all.

Overall, this year’s Start /Stop survey confirmed trends that we suspected, while also providing some surprises. The biggest “vendor start” question in the coming months will be Westlaw Precision, which Jean and I spoke about live during the conference and will be interesting to watch unfold. Thanks for all the participants in the survey, and please reach out to me via email if you would like to discuss any of the noted takeaways here further. As always, HBR’s Insights page has additional legal industry thought leadership, so I’d encourage you to bookmark that for similar insights from my colleagues.