Why I will not be renewing my Westlaw subscription in 2016...
Westlaw is, in my opinion, the best legal research software available. That's why I chose to buy a subscription from them. That's why I agreed to pay them $350 a month for the service.
A few months ago, I moved offices to a place that offers Lexis to its tenants. That service is included in the price of my rent.
I no longer needed Westlaw and would be content to use Lexis, which is a slightly less great product and save $350 a month. I asked Westlaw how much it would cost me to buy out the rest of my contract and they quoted me a figure that was more than $9,000. In other words, I could stop using Westlaw if I just paid for the rest of my three year contract up front. Instead of charging customers a reasonable early termination fee, they think that "every agreement made with West should be honored by both parties".
You know what I think? I think things change. And, I think companies ought to account for the fact that things change.
I understand that the contract says what it says. I'm not disputing my obligation to pay under the contract. But, I also understand that I will only do business in the future with companies that understand that circumstances change and customers should be allowed to end contracts early for a reasonable early termination fee. So, I won't be renewing with Westlaw even though they offer the best legal research software because the terms under which they offer that software are unreasonable. And, because the tone of this letter is intolerably self-righteous.
So, attorneys who listen to my podcast or who read this blog, remember: just because a service may be the best, when it's combined with onerous or unreasonable terms and conditions, it can quickly become a poor option. It is an expensive lesson for me to learn. West could allow me to pay a reasonable early termination fee, but instead has insisted on continuing to provide me with a service I don't need. This short-sighted and greedy position will make them $9,000 over the next three years but won't make them a dime more.
Fortunately for me, in 2016 I expect the market for legal research options to be extremely competitive with Lexis, Fastcase, and CaseMaker all improving quickly. In my opinion, West should be concentrating not only on continuing to create a great service, but improve their product by pairing that product with humane terms and conditions that would foster customer loyalty. With the market of legal research options only getting more competitive, customer loyalty is going to matter a lot more than West currently appreciates.
Perhaps West's willingness to forgo customer satisfaction in favor of short-term profits reveals just how competitive the market has become for a company that used to enjoy a monopoly on the legal research world...