Monday, June 7, 2010

Why I Am Firing Westlaw And Thompson-West

My office manager has been given clear instructions: Do whatever it takes to avoid doing any further business with Thompson-West. If a new book arrives, return it. If a contract needs renewal, cancel it. If we can get out of existing contracts, do so. If we must honor contracts in place, count the days until they expire.

But above all, sever my relationship with Thompson-West and Westlaw.

I've been hooked on Westlaw and related products for decades. It started in law school, when free passwords were given out. I was a kid in a candy store, looking up all manner of stuff for free. Westlaw was the drug dealer giving spiked candy to kids: "Get 'em hooked, and then gouge 'em. Once they need us, we own them." Once law school was in the rearview mirror, the free ride stopped. First I let an employer pay my tab. Then a partner and I split the costs. I've had enough.

The drug dealer's motto may well be Westlaw's and Thompson-West's creed. When it comes to customer service, getting a straight answer from them is akin to petitioning the Kremlin for a weekend pass out of some faraway gulag.

I shudder to think of how much money my firm spends on their products each year. We use Westlaw computer research. We purchase books, whether statutes or practice aids. We subscribed to a couple newsletters. I am an information junkie and Thompson-West is always ready at hand with a quick fix. I spend enough to hire a young lawyer each year on what I pay them.

In response to these payments I am treated like a low-rent junkie. The company, based in Minnesota, has billing practices that are indecipherable. My office manager has spent hours each year trying to get straight what they are billing us for any why. The bills keep coming. We're not sure what they are for and often believe we've already paid them when they get here. But we can't get straight answers from anyone.

Instead, we get dunning notices the moment a bill is late.

I've spoken to a customer service representative here in Connecticut. He has spoken to his boss here in the Northeast. We've been patched through to folks in Minnesota. All are pleasant enough in a Stepford kind of way. But still we endure predatory billing we do not understand, and still we are without answers. I decided this weekend we have wasted enough time on Westlaw and Thompson-West.

So we are done. We'll find another way to get the information we need. There are plenty of sources out there. Perhaps one of them knows how to treat customers and will do something other than stick its hand in my face each month demanding money for things we may or may not have paid for already.

Let Westlaw take some other sucker for granted. I am done.