A new legal research service has quietly launched, targeting bar associations and 1-2 lawyer law firms, but what is not obvious from the service’s website is that the company behind it was formed as a subsidiary of RELX, the parent company of LexisNexis.

Search through the website of the new service, which is called Decisis, and you will find no mention of either RELX or LexisNexis — only of the company that directly created the service, Legal InQuery Solutions Inc.

Legal InQuery Solutions was incorporated in Delaware on Nov. 5, 2021, with Jeffrey S. Pfeifer listed as its president and Kenneth R. Thompson as its vice president.

Pfeifer is chief product officer for LexisNexis in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. Thompson is general counsel and chief compliance officer of RELX. Another officer, Mary Ann Horgan, who is listed as assistant treasurer, is also director, federal tax, at RELX.

I emailed Pfeifer yesterday for comment, but have yet to receive a reply.

Targeting Bar Associations

The launch appears to be designed to provide bar associations with an alternative to Fastcase, after that company acquired Casemaker in 2021, ending the longstanding competition between Fastcase and Casemaker to be the preferred member benefit of state and local bar associations.

The launch also appears to be taking on other legal research services that have made inroads in serving small firms, such as Casetext.

The Decisis website describes it as a “legal research database at a cost-effective price point.” It describes itself as “the clear choice for bar associations or 1-2 attorney firms.”

To date, two bars have signed on with Decisis to offer it as a member benefit, the Ohio State Bar Association, which began offering it to members last October, and the Nebraska State Bar Association (NSBA), which started with the service on May 2.

Even though the Decisis website does not mention LexisNexis, the OSBA site does.

“Though a brand-new product, Decisis is no stranger to the online legal research market,” the site says. “It was created by Legal InQuery Solutions Inc., a subsidiary of RELX, the parent company of LexisNexis®, with strong Ohio ties and an outstanding reputation amongst legal professionals.”

Seeking Alternatives

“Once we were informed that our longtime legal research tool, Casemaker, would be sunset, our board and staff looked at this as an opportunity to seek out a next generation legal research platform to support our membership,” OSBA CEO Mary Amos Augsburger said in an email. 

Decisis, because it is part of the RELX family, was on the bar’s consideration list early on, she said.

“The platform was then tested by a group of members who are avid legal researchers and who noted that it was easy and straightforward – it came out the clear winner,” she said. “We are a bar that embraces innovation and Decisis is a streamlined interface that was created towards making legal research easier and more accurate.”

She said that the test group liked the platform’s “Google-like design” and the ability to email cases to oneself for future reference and refer to a 90-day search history, among other things.

Similarly in Nebraska, the NSBA had previously offered its members legal research through Casemaker. After Fastcase acquired Casemaker, NSBA moved its members to Fastcase.

In an editor’s note in the May/June issue of Nebraska Lawyer Magazine, NSBA Executive Director Elizabeth Neeley wrote that, soon after moving to Fastcase, she learned of Decisis and convened a group of test users to compare the two services.

“Our test group preferred the uncluttered interface, the reliable and consistent search results, and how intuitive Decisis is to use (dare we say Google-like?),” she wrote.

Her editor’s note said that Decisis has a “world-class citator that’s more effective and robust than Fastcase,” “significantly more cases than Fastcase,” and “all of the secondary sources previously available in Casemaker.”

A product video posted on YouTube says, “With Decisis, your attorneys get all the perks of a premium legal research database, at a price point you can afford.”

Prior Forays into this Market

Ed Walters, cofounder and CEO of Fastcase, said he could not conjecture on whether RELX launched Decisis in order to compete with Fastcase after its acquisition of Casemaker. But he said that this is not the first time that LexisNexis has gone after the bar association market, having previously attempted to do so in 2005 and again around 2012.

(In fact, today’s LexisNexis grew out of an effort by the Ohio State Bar Association to provide its members with an online legal research system, which resulted in the 1967 formation of the Ohio Bar Automated Research Corporation, or OBAR.)

Walters believes the LexisNexis business model will not allow it to succeed in serving the bar association market.

“For Fastcase, our mission is to democratize the law, so working with bars is in the fabric of our DNA,” Walters said. “Lexis is a global company whose charge is to maximize profits.”

Still, he welcomes the competition, he said, and believes having another company in the market is a good thing for consumers.

“If LexisNexis is ready to democratize the law, and they’re prepared to lose hundreds of millions of subscription dollars to do it, I would say great,” he said. “If that’s the new mission of Lexis, I think we should celebrate that. But I do find it hard to believe.”

Longtime Rivalry

When Fastcase acquired Casemaker last year, it created a single research company that had an estimated subscriber base of more than three quarters of all lawyers in the United States.

The two companies had been rivals since their early years, as each competed to win the business of becoming the preferred member benefit of state and local bar associations. For years, one of my most popular posts was an article I wrote in 2009 in which I did a head-to-head comparison of the two research services.

Their combination resulted in a subscriber base that included the bar associations of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and four-dozen metropolitan, county and specialty bar associations, for a total number of users of more than 1 million lawyers, out of an estimated 1.3 million lawyers in the country.