Commoditization of Legal Information Products

Has legal information been commoditized? A 3 Geeks and a Law Blog post tackles this issue. It would certainly seem that primary source material has been commoditized and even some secondary source material may be on its way to widget status as editorial budgets are cut.

Robert McKay in a comment to the post writes:

I think they (i.e. the large publishers) may have lost their ability to develop non-commoditized content while not having the vision to exploit the primary sources.

Rodrigues: Downsizing Editorial Will Endanger Legal Publishers

Gary Rodrigues has written a blog post on the dangers of cutting editorial staffs at the large law publishers. In essence, he argues that the large publishers’ basic advantage over free web-based services will be lost since a skilled in-house editorial staff is what built the publishers’ brands, drove the profit margins, and today, in a digital environment of free information and proliferating software and cloud-based offerings, the editorial staffs represent the only genuine “head-start” these publishers have.

Writes Rodrigues:

“The contribution of editorial to legal publishing has always been underestimated and undervalued by corporate owners. Editorial built the business and established the standards on which the reputations of the major legal publishing houses are based.”

Later, he asserts:

“‘Editorial’ was also largely responsible for the key product development initiatives that drove growth. The loss is not restricted to primary content. New titles and new editions of secondary works require intensive editorial work that cannot be replaced by automated processes.”

In 2014, have we reached the point at which legal insight and analysis can be automated?