CRIV/BBNA Semiannual Call Minutes (December 2019)

Thursday, December 17, 2019, 11:00 am Eastern

Participants: Joe Breda (President, Bloomberg Law); Mike Bernier (Director, Knowledge Services and Library Relations; Bloomberg Law); Vani Ungapen (Executive Director; American Association of Law Libraries (AALL)), R. Martin Witt (Chair, AALL Committee on Relations with Information Vendors (CRIV)); Karen Selden (AALL Board Liaison to CRIV)

New Bloomberg Law Products, Policies, and Issues of Interest

  • Corporate and litigation Practical Guidance tools continue to be expanded. New suites include:
    • Initiating & Defending Litigation
    • Litigation Finance
      • Both go live on December 18, 2019
      • Both fully integrate with existing tools on Bloomberg Law (e.g., Points of Law; Docket Key; SmartCode)
    • Law X.0 podcasts
      • Available on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher.
        • Focused on the future of the practice of law
      • Workflow enhancements
        • Revamped alerts management system
        • Simplified printing process, including bulk printing and downloading multiple files from a results list.

Upcoming Bloomberg Law Products, Policies, and Issues of Interest

  • Big product release of 2020 Q1 will include
    • Brief Analyzer
      • To be released to all Bloomberg Law customers
      • Will allow users to upload a brief and get related legal materials from Bloomberg Law

Requests for Assistance (RFA)

RFA #1 – Restrictions on Docket Use (Academic Law)

R. Martin Witt:

Background – There were a number of Requests for Assistance in which AALL members reported having Bloomberg Law users who were told that their Bloomberg Law accounts were prohibited from executing any further Dockets Transactions. These users received a letter from Bloomberg Law’s legal counsel saying they had been identified as having an excessive amount of docket transactions. Some AALL members also indicated that they had users also were told they were banned “for life.” Historically, AALL members have Bloomberg Law have often recommended Bloomberg Law as a resource for access dockets, precisely because there was not a preset limit on the transactions that could be completed.

Joe Breda:

In general, Bloomberg Law offers pretty much unlimited/unmetered dockets access to every single law school seat. There is, however, an external variable cost associated with the transactions, which is borne by Bloomberg Law. Docket usage is increasing at a non-linear rate, and – rather than severely limit docket access across the board in the law school market – Bloomberg Law identified 23 individual users whose usage was several orders of magnitude above “normal” usage and contacted them, referring to a Bloomberg Law’s general provision allowing access to be restricted.

Those 23 users are not forbidden from accessing Bloomberg Law; they are also not forbidden from accessing dockets on Bloomberg Law. The restriction applies only to the ability to incur costs via docket requests and docket alerts. Those 23 users could only perform actions that would generate costs if they agreed to cover the costs of those actions.

Agreements to cover the costs of docket requests have been discussed with two of the 23 users, but a billing mechanism is still being worked out by Bloomberg Law.

Mike Bernier:

Bloomberg Law will be meeting with a group of Law Library Directors at AALS, to gather feedback and perhaps work to establish thresholds that could be used moving forward. The purpose is not to reduce the use of dockets for general legal research, but instead to curb the excessive use of dockets above what is reasonably expected.

Joe Breda:

Again, the vast majority of law school users (students and faculty) – 99.8% of academic users –were completely unaffected.

R. Martin Witt:

Were any of the 23 users running scripts or were they all manually gathering/using dockets?

Joe Breda:

That’s less of a relevant question in this instance, because even if done manually the fees incurred were extremely high. This is particularly true with docket tracks because, once set up, they can generate substantial fees without any further human action required.

R. Martin Witt:

To recap, there is no strict limit right now, but setting a threshold will be discussed at AALS. Other aspects CRIV would recommend be included in those AALS discussions are 1) the possibility of some warning, prior to restricting docket functionality for users; 2) perhaps a suspension period prior to a permanent restriction of certain docket actions; 3) whether the permanent restriction will remain for all 23 users already identified.

Joe Breda:

Bloomberg Law is totally willing to return full functionality to any of the 23 users under either of two circumstances: 1) they discontinue whatever actions were driving disproportionate fee generation or 2) they reach at least an informal agreement to bear the financial burden for the excessive activities.

R. Martin Witt:

Finally, the letter from General Counsel indicated that “efforts to circumvent the prohibition” would lead to suspension and/or termination of the Bloomberg Law agreement. What would constitute efforts to circumvent? Would, for instance, a Reference Librarian requesting an item that the faculty member with restricted access could not request be an effort at circumvention?

Joe Breda:

Absolutely not, that activity by a Reference Librarian would be fine. The efforts at circumventing that are not permitted would be things like transferring all the existing alerts that caused an account to be restricted to another account that had not been restricted.

A summary of the AALS meetings will also be provided to CRIV to be appended to these minutes or share shortly thereafter. If Law Librarians would like to share their thoughts on this, please contact Mike Bernier (MBernier@bloomberglaw.com).

Post-Call Addendum

Bloomberg Law reported constructive conversations at AALS regarding law school docket use and are making some refinements to a policy based on feedback at that meeting and will communicate further.

RFA #2 – ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct

Joe Breda:

As has been expressed multiple times over recent years, Bloomberg Law sees its future as two things: 1) completely digital; and 2) an integrated platform. At this point, this was essentially the final print resource produced by Bloomberg Law. After extended discussions with the leadership at the ABA, everyone agrees the future is digital and the time has come to make that move with respect to this product. An entirely new slice of Bloomberg Law was built out, which will allow for a better more current product that the print could offer.

R. Martin Witt:

ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct has current archives in PDF, with citable pagination. Will that be maintained?

Mike Bernier:

Yes, the archive will be maintained.

R. Martin Witt:

Will new updates be similarly paginated?

Mike Bernier:

We have been reworking this resource from page-based pagination to paragraph-based pagination, which will hopefully make the transition easier since updates after the end of the year will not have fixed pagination. Even when print goes away, we will have a means of consistent citation.

R. Martin Witt:

OK, thank you. Moving to consistent paragraph formatting should hopefully alleviate some concerns over citations. With respect to access, there seems to be some similarity to the concern over access – primarily for court/public Law Libraries, or those open to the public – that we discussed in connection with the Tax Management Portfolios (TMPs) last year. For the TMPs, you were open to the idea of kiosk access based on IP address rather than simply by specific machine address. Could there be something similar – either a slice or kiosk-based access to the new professional responsibility platform – available to those libraries who are open to the public and have financial constraints that make providing public access to the complete Bloomberg Law platform untenable?

Joe Breda:

There is no current kiosk-based configuration for that particular slice. A challenge with IP authentication is that it becomes difficult to price appropriately. We are, however, willing to discuss the possibility and will follow-up with CRIV and the libraries impacted.

R. Martin Witt:

I’m not sure there’d be a consensus, given all the different circumstances Law Libraries face. For some Law Libraries though, especially those that make a concerted effort to serve the public and attorneys who are unlikely to have access to the full Bloomberg Law, this is a resource that is of great importance. It isn’t a niche practice area; it’s something that every practicing attorney should be able to stay informed on. IP-recognition would likely be preferred, for ease of administration, but even a kiosk-based configuration (single terminal) with just the professional responsibility slice available could be a good compromise.

Post-Call Addendum

Bloomberg Law responded to concerns that law school and court libraries were unable to make the ABA/Bloomberg Law Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct available to patrons after print ceased. As a result of issues raised by CRIV, law schools and courts may now purchase an IP-authenticated electronic version of just the ABA/Bloomberg Law Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct at a price significantly less than a full Bloomberg Law Patron Access terminal. Librarians should contact their Bloomberg Law Relationship Partner for more information.

RFA #3 – Itemized invoices, including of electronic subscriptions

R. Martin Witt:

An AALL member subscribes to multiple electronic products from Bloomberg Law and needs itemized invoices in order to properly allocate costs from Bloomberg Law to appropriate practice groups. Is there anything that can be done for this subset of firms that needs to allocate costs of individual electronic products?

Mike Bernier:

The default is to bill as one lump sum. Requests for itemized bills can generally be accommodated on an individual basis, since it is a manual process. If the request has been made to the billing contact and the response is not satisfactory, users should contact Mike Bernier (MBernier@bloomberglaw.com) directly for a cost-per-subscription breakdown (with some limitations if bundling makes such a breakdown impossible).

RFA #4 – BNA Books

R. Martin Witt:

Within the past couple days, there have been a rash of incidents where Bloomberg Law Books (formerly BNA Books) have been delivering multiple copies of materials and billing them separately when only one was ordered. There was also a lot of institution account information that was lost in a recent transition. I know you’ve just been made aware of the issues as well. Can you share any additional information or progress on diagnosing the issues?

Mike Bernier:

The books@bloomberglaw.com email address should now be sufficient to address most of the concerns expressed. There was a transition, but it is being worked on. If there is a need for escalation of a particular issue, people should be forward the previous correspondence to me [Mike Bernier (MBernier@bloomberglaw.com)] and I can assist.

Joe Breda:

We have someone in the office now tracking down instances where customers were sent books/copies that they didn’t want and working to resolve them. We are also working on fixing issues in our accounts that were transferred, including the loss of information related to tax-exempt status, so we are asking for that information and should be able to effectively keep track of that moving forward. Please just continue to communicate with us as we work through this process and the best initial contact is books@bloomberglaw.com.

R. Martin Witt:

Was there a pattern to the extra books that were sent out, which might indicate a systematic issue?

Mike Bernier:

Unfortunately, no. We’ve been able to resolve the individual issues, but there does not seem to be any commonality among the extra materials that were sent out.

RFA #5 – Full-time Equivalent (FTE) measure

R. Martin Witt:

A AALL member reported that Bloomberg Law was trying to “prove” that JD enrollment had crossed a certain threshold, thereby increasing their subscription cost and were requiring extra steps to certify the number as correct even though it was publicly available.

Mike Bernier:

Generally, Bloomberg Law takes the ABA 509 report and if enrollment drops we request something from the registrar that confirms the drop. If there is no discrepancy identified by the school, Bloomberg Law will not seek to identify discrepancies itself or require additional certification of ABA 509 numbers. This sounds like there was an unfortunate miscommunication and we can follow up.