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Wolters Kluwer NV is a respected, staid name in legal publishing. So when the Dutch company agreed to buy Loislaw.com Inc. last December for $95 million, the legal technology world gasped. The Van Buren, Ark.-based Web site had been hemorrhaging money since 1996. Its stock price had tumbled from $40 to around $1 in less than a year. And then there was the Wexis problem: West Group and Lexis-Nexis had recently started going after Loislaw’s core customers of sole practitioners and small law firms. “It was a strange move by Kluwer,” says Martin Dean, a San Francisco legal technology consultant. “It left a lot of us scratching our heads.” Six months later their heads still itch. In January the company folded Loislaw into its Gaithersburg, Md.-based Aspen Publishing division. The plan is for Aspen to beef up Loislaw’s offerings with content from its casebooks, treatises, and legal newsletters. But these “integrated content libraries” won’t be available until the end of the year. “Our core mission remains the same,” says Jane Butler, the executive vice president of Aspen. “For years Loislaw has provided an affordable research tool for solo practitioners and small law firms. We’ll continue along this same path.” Low-cost legal content providers like Loislaw and VersusLaw Inc. have always lived in the shadow of Westlaw and Lexis. They market scaled-down products to lawyers who can’t afford Westlaw or Lexis, which can run well over $1,000 per month. Loislaw currently charges $179 a month for unlimited access to its databases, which are extensive, but not as complete as Westlaw or Lexis’. For example, the federal database includes U.S. courts of appeals case law dating to 1971 and no district court opinions at all. Last year, both West and Lexis-Nexis decided to go after sole practitioners and small firms with Web-based offerings, WestWorks and lexisONE. Alan Braverman, a family law attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., used both Westlaw and Loislaw for years. But he recently started dialing up lexisONE. “Now I’m not using Loislaw nearly as much as I used to,” Braverman says. If this kind of defection scares people at Aspen or Kluwer, they aren’t showing it. “We stay away from discussing the competition, because we don’t need to worry about them,” says Butler. “If we stick to our game plan, we’ll be fine.” Loislaw recently moved its marketing department to New York, and has begun targeting metropolitan markets like New York and Washington, D.C. To paraphrase Willie Sutton, that’s where the lawyers are. “We’re hiring good people in sales, and we’re about to start with a huge marketing campaign,” says Aspen’s executive vice president, Marc Jennings. “Our numbers are ambitious.”

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