Law Librarians News Editorial 15 Aug 2014: New Lexis & The Mysterious Case Of All The Wrong Choices


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In issue 300 of the newsletter we documented how Lexis revenue had really taken a tumble in the first six months of the year (As reported in Reed’s 2014 half yearly financial report).

Because getting any sort of sensible comments out of Lexis management about things like static revenue numbers is nigh on impossible, at LLN (issue 300) we surmised about all the usual suspects.

Market conditions, inept management, expensive acquisitions and so on and so forth.

Interestingly, one of our sources has managed to dig a little deeper into the information mine(field) that is LN and come up with some specifics for LLN.

Firstly we learn that the “platform”  …”New Lexis” that the company wanted all national versions (Lexis Advance runs on New Lexis)  to run on worldwide has been somewhat difficult to build and subsequently operate.

Please excuse the following use of the English language (as my source also requests).. We are now in Lexis world and both the English language and political correctness are dim distant lights in another galaxy.

We learn that   “It (New Lexis) was poorly “architected”–or as has been described as “not architected at all”. One person described it, using an analogy from a trip to Israel. In Israel all the houses are well built. When you take the tour bus to Bethlehem, you leave Israel proper and all the new Arab houses look like they?are about to fall over–that’s the New Lexis Platform.”

The people responsible for building the platform  “The Enterprise Architecture Group” are described by our source as a “Ceremonial Organisation”  phew…

We are told that they are excellent at giving Powerpoint demos to senior management and can give the impression that all is hunky dory but in reality the built system is actually fairly chaotic and even if the Enterprise Architecture Group did want to change things essentially they are powerless to do so.


The other sacred cow in the new Lexis picture is something called HPCC (High Performance Computing Cluster ). This is Reed-Elseiver’s alternative to Hadoop (

At the link on the previous page we learnt Mark Logic drives Lexis Advance. Yet at the link below we find out that  HPCC also drives Lexis Advance.

And yet again as with Mark Logic, no one wants to or can  explain how HPCC got in there so much so that people are developing theories on its inclusion.

One says that Reed Elsevier put pressure to use their own stuff and Mark Logic was so expensive that they had to try something, anything for some pieces of the system. It ‘s also interesting to note that essentially they made the wrong choice . HPCC hasn’t managed to get traction in the market as  the open source go to solution and Hadoop has.

So which is…. the system running on–Mark Logic or HPCC?

Our source concludes

In theory, they could have built the entire platform on HPCC, integrated with an off-the-shelf search engine OR they could have built the entire platform on Mark Logic.

Instead, they have just shoehorned two largely incompatible things together.

But don’t worry as we know from experience LN doesn’t like one simple problem so the issue has been compounded by looking overseas for software development solutions at what we presume would be referred to as “competitive pricing structures”.

Inhouse development is out and of course as most of us who’ve gone down the route, know.. what seemed like a bargain from Asia at the time has become an ever evolving nightmare. Yet again our source says it succinctly, “It’s is amazing that the senior executives at LN and RE thought they could order a new legal research system over the phone like a pizza.”

So, the resulting mess on HPCC is what, LLN learns, has  caused the endless lead times to get new content up and also those in the know have said  that if someone were to try to explain how LexisNexis uses HPCC, they would just sound crazy because the system is so incomprehensibly designed!

Likewise, it is the mess on the part implemented on Mark Logic that causes it to take forever to develop the new user interface that has been promised for two years and is supposed to be available this summer for Lexis Advance.

So can LN currently be seen as a good acquisition prospect?

According to our source, individuals at Bloomberg have indicated that some former ex-LexisNexis leadership have made it abundantly  clear that LexisNexis is not a good idea in acquisition terms  unless you’re in the market for a can of digital worms with software developers whose idea of a fix is two tin cans and a piece of string.

This we should remember is combined with a legal market that appears to be levelling out again after a short growth spurt and as we point out regularly in this newsletter it is a fact that the trend in legal M&A is currently pointing to  China and Chinese law firms . LLN would cautiously suggest that culturally  Chinese desire to spend money on transparent reliable content that helps you get to the truth of the matter isn’t always their top priority.

Then again maybe LN would be the perfect prospect for a Chinese tech company. It’d give them access to a lot of valuable US business and legal information and the obsfucation culture at LN would slot perfectly with Chinese business culture and desire to control information for the few.

Whilst we are on the subject of dysfunctional publishers do check our Publishing News Section. A report that’s come in about some of the issues at Bloomberg don’t make one feel entirely confident about their level  of service either

Sean Hocking