or most of its history, Eagan, Minnesota’s West Group hasn’t needed to take a lot of risks. For decades, the company maintained healthy profit margins chiefly by peddling hard-bound volumes of legal opinions. It plunged into computerized legal research in the 1970s with Westlaw, but only because its chief competitor, Miamisburg, Ohio’s Lexis-Nexis, was making inroads there too.

But by the late 1990s, things had changed. The brass at both West and Lexis-Nexis realized they had saturated the big law firm market with their electronic products. They understood that fresh revenue streams required new, innovative offerings.

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