Internet Newsletter for Lawyers
September/October 2003, by Delia Venables

Another in the series on publishers, movers and shakers online

The Lawyer Group
by Rachel Lesiter

The Lawyer Group is the legal publishing division of Centaur Communications (www.centaur.co.uk). Centaur is one of the UK's largest independent business publishing and information companies. It employs over 600 people and is privately owned with the shares largely held by management and by City and US financial institutions. Centaur's headquarters are in Central London (Poland Street, London W1), with other offices close by.

Centaur operates six key divisions that serve the following business sectors: legal, financial, marketing, creative, new media and engineering. Each division is typically built around a weekly periodical that becomes a trusted brand through accurately publishing much needed business information each week. It then drills down in order to provide that sector, industry or profession with the specialist information that each sector demands. This takes the form of on-line information services, quarterly or monthly journals, newsletters, conferences, exhibitions, industry awards and archival material.

In Centaur's legal division, the strength of The Lawyer, as a widely recognised brand within the legal profession has enabled The Lawyer Group to establish an extended portfolio of products and services within a short period of time. The Lawyer Group's primary aim is to provide timely and authoritative products and services that improve the performance of lawyers, law firms and those involved in the business of law. Today The Lawyer Group includes: The Lawyer, The Lawyer.com (www.thelawyer.com), Lawyer 2B - published 5 times a year and circulated to over 30,000 students and trainees, The Lawyer Conferences and Events, and The Lawyer 100.

Lawtel was also part of the group until its sale to Thomson in August of last year. The sale has opened up the opportunity for The Lawyer Group to work with other legal publishers - operating for the first time from a position of independence. Crucially, The Lawyer.com is no longer tied to a single source and is therefore free to develop innovative online products working with a range of legal publishers as well as with the new generation of publishers emerging from law firms and chambers.

The Lawyer.com

The new version of The Lawyer.com is made up of six services: Lawyer News, Lawyer Diary, Lawyer Jobs, Lawyer Directories, LawZone and Business Watch.

Each service has been developed as a stand-alone solution in response to specific market demands. Lawyer Diary (www.thelawyer.com/lawyerdiary) provides a good example of this – by collating the vast and disparate volumes of direct mail related to conferences and courses users can compare and contrast what is available from a wide variety of training providers. They can take advantage of discounts and special offers available exclusively through Lawyer Diary and book online using our simple and secure email booking form (bookings are sent directly to the organiser).

Each one of the six services benefits from intelligent links between services enabling the user to seamlessly link to related and relevant content. For example, links from vacancies in Lawyer Jobs to relevant news articles in Lawyer News gives job applicants an easy way to research their next career move.

The success of The Lawyer.com's services to date should probably be attributed to the rapid growth in the number of users registered for the various email services. Lawyer News Weekly (www.thelawyer.com/lawyernews) is a great success story as it has managed to build a following of over 24,000 registered users in a very short space of time. This provides an email round up of the latest news and commentary from The Lawyer and features the popular ‘Grapevine', an irreverent look at the latest weeks news.

The Lawyer Group recently appointed Sift, provider of online community solutions, to redevelop The Lawyer.com so that it is well positioned to respond quickly and effectively to customer feedback through flexible and scalable technical developments that result in a simple and intuitive experience for the end user. The new version of The Lawyer.com will be given a fresh design, which includes better navigation and a simple online registration process offering the first level of personalisation.

In addition, LawZone will be fully incorporated into The Lawyer.com site and repositioned as the sixth service. The new LawZone will offer a collection of specialist zones focused on delivering specialist information to the non-specialist.

An Information Gateway

The Lawyer Group believes there is a gap in the market for an information gateway that draws together the many different articles interpreting the latest legal developments. These articles will be provided by law firms and chambers, keen to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise to potential and existing clients using The Lawyer.com.

Legal articles and commentary will be classified by practice area, and then further broken down into subjects within each practice area. Cases and legislation cited within articles will be linked to a new neutral multiple-source linking service from Context that allows users to select a reference within any document and be offered a variety of services to link to. For example, highlighting a case reference or case name will permit users to view the full text on Justis.com, All England Direct or BAILII, or be taken to other related information on JustCite or an internal know-how system.

By drawing together the phenomenal specialist knowledge contained within law firms and chambers as well as providing links to a variety of free and paid for information sources, LawZone aims to offer the user optimum choice. This approach allows The Lawyer Group to maintain a position of independence, but offers users easy access to free information sites such as BAILII and HMSO as well as the added-value subscription services.

The Lawyer Group will continue to develop high quality and innovative publishing solutions, demonstrating an ongoing commitment to listening to customer needs and developing products and services that respond to those needs.

Rachel Lesiter is Managing Director of The Lawyer Group, www.thelawyer.com. Email rachel.lesiter@centaur.co.uk.

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