Visualizing Consolidation in the Legal Information Marketplace

Prompted by Thomson Reuters’ closing of the remnants of the venerable Banks-Baldwin here in Cleveland, Sarah Glassmeyer has published an excellent visual representation of the ongoing consolidation of the legal information marketplace.

Greg Lambert at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog took the idea and ran with it — expanding Sarah’s chart to show how information products beyond traditional publishing have also been gobbled by the giants, and creating a Google Docs version for others to add information.

One thing that leaps out from the charts is how many publishers that proliferated the late-19th and early-20th centuries (which, I like to point out to my students, was another great era of perceived information overload)were consolidated into our current big players, beginning in the 1980s. So the explosion of research tools and publications that really created “modern” book-based legal research in the beginning of the 20th-century left a lot of competitors (though obviously West, with its Digests and National Reporters, had a special role). It will be interesting to think about how that compares with innovation in the legal research and legal information space in the last few decades. Obviously there has been some (uh… huge disruptive change, one might interject), but a lot has been subsumed through acquisitions or internal development into a really very consolidated industry.

Of course, by taking the perspective of expanding the family tree out backwards, these kinds of charts show us only how much a Thomson or an Elsevier have acquired, not how much they haven’t. In the “traditional” law publishing space, that may not matter — we all know there are precious few independents now and precious little market share for them. But in the information marketplace defined more broadly there at least might be other stories to tell… Maybe?…

(this post also appeared on Just in Case: News and Notes from the Judge Ben C. Green Law Library.)

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