Revolutionising information pathways

Karen Waldron, Product Development Director, LexisNexis

Dani McCormick, Director of Solutions, LexisNexis

At the recent BIALL 2019 conference, Karen Waldron and Dani McCormick from LexisNexis presented a plenary session, exploring how LexisNexis has continuously evolved its content to meet the needs of the modern legal world.

As an ethos, LexisNexis aspires to be the partner of choice, by providing on platform and off platform solutions that enable your success.

Karen highlighted how this underpins everything we do and is reflected in the way we shape our content and solutions.

Journey of innovation

In making the transition from legal publisher to technology partner, it’s been essential for LexisNexis to listen to the changing needs of customer and be reactive to feedback. Karen and Dani shared the story of the LexisLibrary launch 15 years ago illustrating how the organisation has adopted a more customer centric approach.

When LexisLibrary was initially launched, the main emphasis was on the quality and breath of content rather than end user needs. As a result, the tool had vast amounts of content but end users struggled to find what they needed. This helped us realise it was essential to look at content in the context of its use rather than in isolation.

To address this challenge, the team at LexisNexis started running user groups, and began by asking end users ‘what do you do?’. This enabled the team to pull apart the content and understand the user context. The intelligence resulted in task flows which showed the pathways end users took through the content. Dani added that she was one of the lawyers who took part in these user groups before she joined LexisNexis.

This was huge exercise in customer insights, with 2.5k conversations taking place, 1.5k of which were purely about understanding at a granular level what our customers do on a day-by-day basis. Mapping this out showed the sheer volume of data and processes required to complete tasks and we made it our mission to simplify this for our end users. Focusing on improving and streamlining those pathways within the online experience was key to the subsequent design and development of Lexis services.

An agile approach

While our content has evolved, our core offering has not changed, but has been supplemented by additional layers of value. In thinking of the purpose of our services, we have evolved from publishing the law, through expert commentary from internal and external authors explaining the law, to adding more practical advice on how to practice law effectively and now to how to use insights to drive more valuable decision making. Karen said this can be viewed as rings on a tree: we have added layers to the content, but we still maintain the core value of the law in everything we do. 

LexisNexis has a strong foundation of publishing with Butterworths combined with Lexis USA datacentre which was an early pioneer in tech in 1973. The result is a strong combined heritage of content and technology. In 2019 there has been more diversification into tech but as an organisation we have had to make internal changes to enable we take advantage of this.

As a large corporate we have legacy infrastructure and traditionally had large releases using the waterfall methodology. However, in the past 12 to 18 months we have moved to an agile approach which consists of iterative development rather than massive pre-planned updates. To supplement this new method of working, we have established a UK Tech Hub in London with developers working alongside product managers, designers and content experts and collaborating on a continual daily basis, with frequent experimentation and customer input. 

Dani stressed this was a huge change for the business, with senior management having to adapt to an agile approach to projects. With this approach we ‘place bets’ on activities we feel will help us achieve our goals and run these through a process of tech experiments and customer discovery, evolving the ‘bets’ to reflect feedback. This approach ensures everyone is focussed on the goal, from entry level right up to senior management, we are all focused on the outcome for customers and the business.

Halsbury’s Laws of England—over 100 years of innovation

Karen and Dani used the example of Halsbury’s to illustrate how LexisNexis has continued to innovate. Halsbury is at the core of LexisLibrary content and has continued to evolve to meet the changing needs of our customers:

  • 1907the first edition of Halsbury’s published, bringing the law together into one place for the first time
  • 1912the book was big and heavy, but people needed to use it on the train, to meet this need it was produced on thinner paper to make it lighter to transport
  • Late 90sHalsbury Law Direct was launched with Eureka natural search engine embedded, this is when there was a lot of thinking around how we access content differently

And this history of innovation hasn’t stopped, and the recent Halsbury Q and A maker project run by Dani is a great example of this continuous innovation. This experimental project saw engineers taking all the Halsbury content and transforming it to a huge question and answer tool.

Dani explained she left the engineers to work on this for two weeks and within this time they had a success score of 30% for the first round of development—they needed more time. The issue was they had 75,000 pages of answers but no correlating questions. The engineers tackled this challenge by first pulling out the obvious questions, using the headings of Halsbury, this resulted in 15 to 20% accuracy. They then used algorithms to pull out key words, and connections between words which resulted in 60 to 70% accuracy. The team at LexisNexis who run the Ask system are now testing the system to see the accuracy across every question our customers ask us via that service. There is a feedback loop to the engineers, so they can refine and improve accuracy.

This project was a way of revolutionising one of our most cherished collections of content.

Lessons learned

The session was wrapped up as Karen and Dani reiterated the importance of listening to the needs of the market and end users whilst innovating. Content has remained at the heart of what we do but it has been essential to take a more outward approach, understanding the context in which it is used and ensuring we work with our customers to make better products. This approach takes time, patience, change management and viewing it as an iterative process. Most importantly we have had to learn that it can be good to fail. This has been the biggest change for everyone from junior staff to senior management. We need to work hard and learn from the inevitable failures as well as successes that come from innovation and experimentation


Filed Under: Practice of Law

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