A Candid Conversation With Outsell's David Curle

David Curle is director and lead analyst for Outsell. As director and lead analyst, David serves as an executive level analyst and consultant to a range of Outsell clients. He tracks the legal information market, tax and regulatory space. David covers the large publishers of legal information like LexisNexis. Curle also tracks trends on how end users -- lawyers and other consumers of legal information -- are using technology to change the way they do their work.

I had the pleasure of speaking with David on a number of trends within the space. Here are two of the most interesting conversations we had:

RN: Why is patent search so important?

DC: It is quite a developed space, but fairly niche. Intellectual property is more and more important to a lot of companies. The companies understand that they need to develop new technologies and vet them through the intellectual properties system. In the past -- even before the Internet -- patented information was a big part of the online, fee-based database providers. For example, an inventor could go online search and find out if there is another patent existing.

The trend in this space is a shift from just being an information provider to being a work flow provider. This simply means getting into a companies processes. The processes of what do the companies have a portfolio of and how do they protect and analyze the patents. The workflow also helps the companies map out where the technologies are and who owns them. LexusNexis is one of the main players in this space.

LexisNexis' IP offerings include:
  • Users have the option to use standard boolean search instead, and to tweak the boolean search generated by the semantic engine;
  • By extending semantic search to non-patent sources, LexisNexis beefs up the researchers' ability to find prior art;
  • All terms displayed in the "QueryCloud" are generated on the fly; this is not a system that's based on static term lists, so it stays relevant and up to date as the content set changes or it is pointed at new source databases;
  • Full sentences or paragraphs can be used to initiate searches as well as individual terms.
RN: What are some of the trending difficulties that face the legal market?

DC: The bad economic times have had an adverse affect on law firms. In the past the practice of law has been fairly immune to the downturn of the economic environment. This time it's different -- the law firm industry has taken a big hit. There were massive layoffs about a year to a year and a half ago. Primarily the big clients of these law firms have started to -- sort of push back and question the way the whole law firm industry is structured. Primarily, the way firms price their services and the way they deliver those services.

I think that there is an ongoing restructuring in the legal industry that is really affecting the companies I track. If the companies are under financial pressure then they are buying less content.

The reason this particular downturn in the economy affected the law industry so adversely is because the customers quickly stopped purchasing legal services. What is happening now is the clients that spend a lot on legal services now just don't want to spend as much. So these clients are telling the law firms to figure out how to give "me" what I want but at a cheaper rate.

I had a great conversation with David the breadth of is knowledge and understanding of the information market, tax and regulatory space was rather impressive. From what I gathered during our interview, the law firm industry is making a fundamental shift. They are slowly modernizing the shop, using social media to engage communities and demonstrate their legal expertise. Law firms are also using technology to automate much of the processes that have been traditionally done manually. Let's hope that these changes are enough to allow the law firm industry to supply services at a much low cost.