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Summary:

In a sign that legal news is gaining strategic clout, LexisNexis announced it is buying subscription service Law360 for an undisclosed sum.

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photo: flickr / dbking

In a sign that legal news is gaining strategic clout, LexisNexis announced it is buying subscription service Law360 for an undisclosed sum.

Law360 has been an acquisition target for years for companies like LexisNexis that make a business of selling research and practice management software to lawyers.

Law360 started in New York in 2004, and now has reporters in six different cities, including Washington and Chicago. The site is a highly paywalled operation that sells access to packages of newsletters, some of which reportedly cost tens of thousands a year. Clients include law firms and companies.

In a release, LexisNexis portrayed the acquisition as part of a strategic growth plan in which news is a key ingredient in the package of tools it sells to lawyers.

The purchase comes at a time of disruption for the legal industry and for the industries that provide services to it. The financial crisis eliminated both law firms and businesses, and led survivors to scrutinize operation costs. The crunch has also forced firms to be more vigilant about legal research costs which are typically passed on to clients in the same way as fax and photocopy expenses.

In this environment, companies like LexisNexis want to use news as a gateway to their research products and to encourage existing customers to keep their subscriptions. Thomson Reuters (NYSE: TRI), for instance, launched a specialized legal news team partly as a means to protect its market-leading product Westlaw.

With Law360, LexisNexis gains a product with an established news reputation that is also attracting a growing numbers of guest contributions from lawyers and opinion makers.

Law360 also has a reputation for running a lean operation. Most of its reporters work only from court filings and are expected to file four stories a day.

The Law360 acquisition is just one piece of a larger strategic puzzle. LexisNexis and Westlaw are also facing competition from a new Bloomberg legal product as well from start-ups and free legal services like Google (NSDQ: GOOG) patents and the Cornell-based Legal Information Institute.

LexisNexis is owned by research and academic publishing giant Reed Elsevier.

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