The LexisNexis acquisition of Ravel Law wasn’t much of a surprise within the legal community, especially from the library and information center. Our own John DiGilio, Research Director at CCM sister company LibSource, said the signs were pointing in that direction. According to John, while law librarians loved Ravel’s functionality, it was hard to justify the added cost, an important consideration since cost recovery for research has become a challenge.
Speaking from our own information services experience, Ravel had not made significant inroads into the Big Law market. We are not aware of any AmLaw 100 or 200 clients supporting Ravel on an enterprise level.
Reasons for LexisNexis acquisition of Ravel Law
From the business and financial side, this purchase makes perfect sense and fits into the Lexis strategy of investing in services that support data visualization, analytics and predictive analytics. It has taken Lexis several years to consolidate over 165 business systems and integrate them all into Lexis Advance. How long will it take users to have seamless integration of Ravel via Lexis Advance?
According to founder Daniel Lewis, Ravel will be fully integrated into Lexis Litigation Profile Suite first:
“Simultaneously, we will begin work on integration with LexisNexis. You can expect that Ravel’s analytics offerings will continue to expand and be fully integrated into Lexis Litigation Profile Suite. Additionally, Ravel’s search visualization will be integrated into Lexis Advance.”
With Ravel, LexisNexis gains access to valuable algorithms and data analytics technology, giving the company immediate machine-learning, artificial intelligence and natural language processing expertise and capabilities. In terms of their strategy to offer more analytical abilities for jurisdictions, court systems, pools of judges, etc., it’s a smart acquisition, expanding the scope of what they current have.
Implications for current Ravel Law subscribers
While much remains to be seen, the immediate questions are:
- What is the projected timeline for Ravel’s integration into Lexis Advance?
- How will Ravel fit with Lexis’ stacked solutions approach of integrated services that support the practice of law?
- What will happen to the buyers of Ravel Law that don’t presently subscribe to Lexis, nor wish to in the immediate future?
Meanwhile, for both LexisNexis and Ravel clients, I offer the following suggestions.
Contract considerations for Ravel subscribers
First and foremost, review your contract and service level agreement for how they might be affected by this change. In addition:
- Ask your Ravel vendor for an estimated timeline on the integration, and make sure your current contract terms are honored.
- Ask how product support will be affected.
- If you don’t subscribe to Lexis, ask if you will have to “migrate” and what that will entail.
It goes without saying that Ravel subscribers face some major decisions with this change.
Lexis contract considerations
Questions that Lexis subscribers should be asking:
- When can Ravel Law be negotiated with my Lexis contract?
- How will Ravel Law’s technology work in the Lexis Advance environment?
- What are the distinctions of Ravel technology in Litigation Profile Suite and Lexis Advance?
And most importantly: When fully integrated with Lexis Advance, will all the users covered in my firm’s contract be able to experience Ravel Law?
Ravel’s “open and free” case law mission
While Ravel offered a fee-based service, it was the company’s mission to make American case law “open and free” that sparked the most attention. The collaboration between Ravel and Harvard University to digitize 40 million pages of Harvard Law Library case law remains somewhat of a question, though both Ravel and LexisNexis confirm their ongoing support.
According to Ravel:
“Additionally, we are delighted that LexisNexis will be honoring our commitment to provide open access to American caselaw, a project that we began in collaboration with Harvard Law School. As proud as we are of our products, this digitization project is even more transformative for the American public in the long run. We are excited to continue expanding access to this resource and increasing the valuable ways in which it can be used.”
From the LexisNexis announcement:
“LexisNexis is committed to continuing Ravel Law’s open access to this historical collection, giving the American public, and anyone with an internet connection, access to this vital collection of legal information.”
And from Harvard Law Library (quoting Jonathan Zittrain, Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources):
“We look forward to completing this project according to its long-planned timetable, and to exploring other opportunities with anyone interested in promoting free and open access to primary legal materials, which in turn promotes the cause of justice.”
We will continue to monitor this development and how it may affect current Ravel Law and Lexis Nexis subscribers. Meanwhile, you may be interested in my report on the information services market, “In the beginning, there were two”, which now needs updating with the sale of Ravel to Lexis Nexis!
And please contact us with any immediate questions or concerns you have.