AMD Alive and Well at LexisNexis
written: 2/23/07, minor revisions 2/6/08
Acquire, Merge, Destroy is a well-known litany in the software world.
Good products that have been gobbled up by larger companies are often left
to languish and go downhill. The list is very long, and now the same seems
to be starting with recent Lexis Nexis acquisitions.
Two years after TimeMatters was acquired, Bob Butler was abruptly
kicked upstairs and hasnít been heard from since. He has, however, started
a web site: "Best Thinking" (www.bestthinking.com)
which as yet seems to be mainly vaporware.
Following which, TimeMatters 8 was released on schedule but with major
flaws, in particular with the installation routine, which Lexis changed
for reasons of its own convenience but certainly not for the benefit of
LexisNexis has announced a policy of yearly upgrades. Independent of
what its intention may be, this is a recipe guaranteed to lower the
quality for the software for one simple reason: There is not a software
company in existence (not even Microsoft) that has the resources to fix
problems in an existing release and prepare a new release all
within the space of one year, especially as software is becoming
increasingly complex. Therefore existing bugs will not be fixed, new bugs
will be introduced, and there will be fewer and fewer new features worth
the price of upgrading. So a policy of upgrading every other release is
becoming increasingly rational.
TimeMatters 9 (de-branded to "Lexis Front Office powered by TimeMatters
9") was also released on schedule - less than a month after version 8 was
finally stabilized for newer computers with hyperthreading and dual core
processors. And the "stabilized" version of TM 8 (SR2A) introduced a
number of significant new bugs. That says it all.
When PCLaw was acquired, Ron Plashkes, the historic founder, was dumped
as part of the package. Now, two years after acquisition, all three of the
original partners in PCLaw are gone, as are a significant number of the
senior personnel. Meanwhile, there have been two price increases, as well
as an increase in technical support costs (technical support was always a
profit center for PCLaw, very unusual among software companies, so the
increased price represents pure profit for Lexis).
Lexis has decreed that PCLaw Pro will only henceforth be sold as an SQL
product. Unlike Time Matters, which needs the SQL version for more
than half dozen users if you want to use all its features, PCLaw does not
(at least until you get to a much larger number of users). Again, this is
pure profit for Lexis.
Further, it seems very likely that the PCLaw offices in Toronto will be
liquidated and the whole operation "moved" to Cary and/or Dayton. Attempts
to move technical support and other personnel from one place (not to
mention country) to another have historically taken a heavy toll on the
quality of support - look at Corelís move of WordPerfect from Utah to
Lastly, when Concordance was acquired by Lexis, owner Jeff Lipsman left
within a few months. In an interview with Law Technology News (October
2006), Lipsman said that after "a little self reflection," he "made a list
of all the things I wanted to do. Guess what: working for LexisNexis
wasnít on it."
Tom Collins, one of the founders of Juris, who has traditionally hosted
the Juris blog, morepartnerincome, has apparently been bumped from doing
that (he is now referred to as the "former host" of the blog).
Combined with a number of other significant departures, overall there
has been a significant brain drain of senior personnel from both Time
Matters and PCLaw since their acquisition by LexisNexis.
While LexisNexis offers the latest example, it is certainly not alone
in the AMD scenario. Why does this happen? When you clear away all the
smokescreens, the answer, basically, involves two central factors.
Most importantly, companies such as LexisNexis Ė which is in the
publishing/research business, not the software business Ė most often donít
have a clue as to how to run a software company. Look at the disastrous
Novell acquisition of WordPerfect (Novell was a networking company, not a
software company). They tend to release a product and "wait and see" what
the reaction is, rather than trying pro-actively to prevent negative
reactions. Thus they commonly have release dates on which a new version
must be released even if it is far from ready (typically the end of a
quarter). If the new version doesnít work well, tough, they met their
targets. In short, the priorities of a large companies tend not to focus
on how to produce the best software possible. One could even apply Stephen
D. Levittís concept of "Freakonomics" and argue that it is not in their
economic interest to produce the best software possible. The fact that
Lexis has hired a number of "product managers" who have no knowledge
whatsoever of the products they are supposed to be "managing" is not a
The main figure in single-owner private companies (even when there are
a couple of partners) such as TimeMatters or PCLaw, are driven individuals
committed to putting out the best software possible (while hopefully
making a profit doing it). The big advantage to these companies is that
the (typically somewhat megalomanic) owner can make decisions and drive
the company in whatever direction he chooses. If he makes good decisions,
the company prospers, if not, not.
Again, an anecdote speaks volumes: at the first-ever consultants
conference, LexisNexis booked a facility for about 150 consultants - that
had no internet access!! (at least not at a reasonable price).
What does the future hold? LexisNexis is reliably reported to be
working on a single code-base product that would integrate TimeMatters and
PCLaw. This makes sense. However, apparently this product will be
available on a subscription basis only, in line with other Lexis research
products. This means that both TimeMatters and PCLaw are likely to
stagnate and become orphaned, if not dead, products, since the development
resources will likely be going into the "new" product.
Lastly, the massive introduction of "wizards" and graphic
simplification in TM 9 point to marketing directed at small firms on the
pretext that they donít need consultants and can "get up to speed" on
their own. One wonders if the consultant program will be radically cut
back, made more onerous (charging for the privilege as TimeSlips does), or
even eliminated la West. Based on more recent information, it would seem
that the "Independent" consultants are being reduced to the status of
technical adjuncts to the Lexis sales reps. There are a number of
consultants I have spoken with who are perched on a diving board and just
waiting for a decent pool to dive into.
Full Disclosure: On Oct. 12 2007 I received a letter from
LexisNexis excommunicating me from the Consulting program on the basis of
a clause known as "convenience termination." No reason was given.
This comes after 9 years of consulting with PCLaw and nearly 7 years
with TimeMatters, as well as over 100 posts and technofeatures on
Technolawyer and over 30 issues of a Newsletter over a 10-year period. See
my blog at