The European Legal Information
Market: An Interview with Judy Vezmar, CEO, LexisNexis
By Marydee Ojala Editor
our schedules didn't mesh during the Online Information
conference and exhibition the first week of December
2002, Judy Vezmar graciously invited me to LexisNexis
Butterworths Tolley headquarters in Chancery Lane,
located in the heart of London's legal community,
following the show. As CEO of LexisNexis Group Europe,
Vezmar has responsibility for Europe and Africa.
She ushered me into the boardroom, with its impressive
bookshelves filled with bound legal tomes and its
walls graced by portraits of Butterworths Tolley
founding fathers (all male, looking suitably solemn
as befitted their status in their legal world). In
this environment, Judy Vezmar is a breath of fresh
air. She's from the U.S., she's not a lawyer, and
she didn't grow up in the information industry. As
we began our conversation, she gestured to the paintings
and chuckled, "It's said that I'm part of the new
landscape of LexisNexis." There's little doubt of
that, I realized, as our conversation ranged from
markets and media to branding and training.
MO: Why don't you tell me, to start,
a little bit about your background and how you got
involved with the online information industry.
JV: It doesn't quite fit
the profile that you would expect. My background is
all on the business side. I was with Xerox in the States
for almost my entire career. I started as a new sales
rep out of university, went into marketing, and then
I led a couple of major product launches. Essentially,
most of my career has been running operations.
In 1998, I was based in Manhattan, organizing Xerox
around vertical markets, when the company reorganized.
The chairman sent me to London to run P&L across
multiple European countries, focusing on the financial
services industry. We were developing solutions around
document management, which leads to the whole area
of knowledge management and understanding how to take
digitized words and organize the company's intellectual
capital around it.
One day I had this call from a search firm about
a position at Reed-Elsevier. And I said, "Why?" They
said, "Talk to Crispin Davis and Andy Prozes, and if
you still say, 'Why,' we'll understand." We had the
most amazing discussion. Andy explained how he had
just taken over the International Legal Division, which
was very much a loose federation of states around the
world; it was individual countries in a very traditional
legal publishing area. Then I had a meeting with Crispin
and the two of them came back and said, "Well, you
are not a lawyer and you are certainly not from a traditional
publishing background, but you are perfect for the
job." I remember laughing and saying, "OK, where is
the fit?" The fit actually came quite naturally. What
they really required in Europe was a business leader
who had experience of running operations, driving P&L,
and organizing the business across multiple countries.
MO: The operation here is not just online. You've
also got print publishing. Do you have a different
mission than what we are accustomed to in the States
JV: I would say it's an evolutionary
mission. If you look on the walls here in the boardroom
you will see the bound, printed material that is still
a very significant part of the business. It's driven
by the market needs that each country has. My unit
is inclusive of the U.K., France, Poland, Austria,
South Africa I'm giving you the primary ones.
JV: Poland. Yes. We actually have a
strong business with significant growth every year.
It is an amazing market that you wouldn't expect.
MO: Do you have any sort of customer base in Eastern
Europe, outside of Poland?
JV: We do. We do business in Hungary
and in the Czech Republic. There's a lot of interest.
But until we are absolutely sure that the market is
there and ready, I'm not willing to expand. You have
to look at infrastructure, support, budget.
MO: What about South Africa?
JV: Our headquarters is in Durban.
We have a phenomenal business in terms of market presence
and entrenchment. We have a very creative, extremely
talented team. Africa is a difficult market, but it's
incredible from the legal standpoint. Countries like
Nigeria have a surprisingly large number of trained
lawyers. That makes it a market with great growth potential
that nobody is really investing in. Ghana is a country
where they are aware of our products, our technology,
and our services. We just recently did an interesting
deal with the Ghana police. Now, they are not yet online
to the extent you find elsewhere, but they'll use our
CDs. We'll continue to manage our accounts in Africa
from South Africa, however, rather than set up offices
in other countries.
MO: And Scandinavia?
JV: Interesting market, Scandinavia.
Our market research, if you were to stack rank the
key markets of Europe, should put it at the top of
market opportunity. But it's actually at the bottom
sector of market opportunity because of the low number
of lawyers and practitioners. Therefore, when you put
it all together you say, if we go into that market,
how big will it be in terms of return?
We're concentrating on a specific launch order. This
year we've officially launched in Germany in a much
bigger way than before. In November, I acquired a company
called MBO that was, on its own, a very interesting
little operation. MBO built the most comprehensive
database of statutes in Germanyit had all the
federal statutes and all the states already in a format
that allows us to use it as the cornerstone of our
new electronic platformthe LexisNexis platform
that is going to be across the globe. For my business
across Europe, Germany is the number-one point of entry
in terms of market expansion.
The Netherlands is another strategic market. If you
look at Dutch content, you would say, well, who cares
other than people in the Netherlands, but, in fact,
you have South Africa and other countries around the
world where the Dutch language is understood. There'll
be announcements in that area shortly that I can't
really talk about today. [On December 16, 2002,
LexisNexis Group announced the acquisition of FactLANE,
a Dutch online news service, from PCM Uitgevers. FactLANE
adds significant, unique content to the LexisNexis
business intelligence product, including NRC Handelsblad and deVolkskrant.]
Spain is another target on my radar screen.
MO: Spain has always been a tough one.
JV: It is a tough market, but an interesting
one. Clearly the language is very good for us because
there's the link between Spain and the Latin American
countries. There are a couple of very interesting online
electronic services there, but it's still very much
dominated by the traditional print, which is not a
market that I will target. Print is significant in
the U.K.; it's significant in France. It is not our
intention to get out of it; if anything, our intention
is to continue to be the leading provider. However,
we want to really help the market migrate to online.
Online is not as pervasive in Europe and Africa as
in the States. Take Poland. You'd think that it's print
and then going to online. Well, they have such a poor
infrastructure from the telecommunications side that
it makes it extremely expensive. It's very difficult
for online to be the media of choice. So at the moment
a third of our business is CD-ROM-based. We continue
to have a CD market in France and even here in the
U.K., where we would have predicted a few years ago
that by now it would be kind of dead, we continue to
produce CDs for a portion of the market. It's shrinking,
though, an indicator that online is taking hold.
We continue to see a very healthy increase in online
usage in countries like the U.K. and France, and we're
very happy about that. You've heard quite a bit I'm
sure about our new global platform so you know that
we are very proud about putting so much work into itwe've
done, I think, the most research ever in the history
of the company to prepare for it. It's all focused
on the users. It is all about usability preferences.
MO: Talk to me a little bit about users because
in the U.S., there are two pretty distinct user markets.
One is the legal, comprised of lawyers, paralegals,
and law librarians, and the news side, which is mostly
used by the library market. Does that carry over
here? It seems that you are much more legally focused
with the company in Europe.
JV: Of course, everything in our business
started out as traditional legal publishing, so by
definition, it's the majority of the business.
MO: The online business?
JV: Yes, you have your researchersof
course the hub of it being in the libraryand
then you continue to have that part of the market that,
based on the size of the firm, has more end-user requirements.
If you look at the size of law firms in the States,
you would measure them based on number of partners.
You would have categories, 100 plus, 500 plus. Here,
once you get to 20 plus and 50 plus, you are really
in the top. We have all the international firms. It's
the middle part of the market that has more of a need,
a growing need, for us to create a product that allows
the user to have ease of use, a lot of flexibility,
and the capability to do their research online at the
MO: In these middle-sized firms, would they have
a dedicated researcher or would they all be lawyers
JV: You see, that's the difference
from the States, where many more of the researchers
are dedicated to that task. Here, firms have lawyers
and paralegals doing their own research, more so than
in the States. So our excitement about the new platform
is that one, we are able to bring tremendous feature
functionality to the user, whether it is the researcher
or the end user, and two, we are able to give them
capability that everyone is aftermore and more
the ability to search another language.
MO: You have interfaces in French, German, and
JV: That's right. French, for example,
isn't just for France. There are French-speaking countries
in Africa and, of course, there's Canada.
MO: Are you going to expand into Spanish?
JV: We are doing it in order of launch.
So we'll introduce, this year, the German launch. We
will have as well as in France. We'll stress local
language, content, and search capabilities.
MO: It seems to me that in Europe generally, the
name LexisNexis does not have the name recognition
it has in the States.
JV: It had none when I came.
From my sales, marketing, and business background,
I knew customers didn't know who we were because we
weren't out there. Brand is a big deal. When you came
today, you saw the LexisNexis knowledge burst and name
on the door. You wouldn't have seen that 18 months
ago. If you go to France today, you will see LexisNexis-France.
Nine months ago, you would have seen Les Editions du
Juris-Classeur because that was the brand. Now it's
the LexisNexis brand in each of our countries.
MO: So, your branding is working?
JV: Branding is starting to work. Barristers,
judges, they recognize Butterworths; they know it's
been around since 1818. But, interestingly, if you
ask them about online research, they now talk about
LexisNexis. We're completing the brand changeover so
all of online is branded as LexisNexis. When it comes
to printed materials, we'll have the LexisNexis brand
along with the older one. Halsbury's Laws is 300 years
old; we're not going to take that brand away. People
want local content, but we want them to recognize the
MO: How do acquire local content? Do you look
at acquiring companies or licensing content?
JV: Both. On news and business, it
will likely be content licensing, because that is really
the majority of what will be available. If it will
differentiate our content from the competition, that
is absolutely what we are after. We'll then use our
global capability to bring the best technology to the
market, and we ensure we have a local infrastructure
that can bring it to the market the fastest possible
way. That's the way we get the competitive advantage.
There is certainly a lot of competition in the market.
We have made the conscious decision to do two things
better than any of our competition. One is to have
the technology that links us around the world, and
the other is to invest in the local content market.
We are working very hard to license all the major publications,
to license all the major sources to include. What is
surprising is how much these local news sources know
about the scale and scope of LexisNexis. They are very
proud to be part of a service so large, which isn't
something that I anticipated.
MO: For Europe, would content acquisition come
out of this office or from Dayton?
JV: It comes from here. But even in
the U.K., you can't truly be the content licenser if
you're looking at another country. You have to have
people locally doing that. We are trying to get deeper
and deeper into the fiber of the country to become
the local provider. It's important for us to be seen
as ingrained in the country locally, but having the
power of international content and capability wrapped
around it. So if you are an M&A banker in Germany,
what you want is the best content that you can get
your hands on both locally and globally. That's our
jobto ensure we've licensed the content in all
the countries that are important and that it all goes
on the platform and therefore you have access worldwide,
anywhere you are, to the content that you need.
MO: Is the use of the news and business growing
JV: Yes, yes. In fact, the whole area
of news and businessI would put under the terms
of corporate marketis another area where LexisNexis
U.S. is separate from LexisNexis Europe. We've done
extensive research to find corporate markets across
Europe. This is a significant area. Corporate market
opportunity in Europe is roughly half a billion Euros
across the key countries of Europe. If you look individually
in those countries, you would say there are certain
markets further developed than others. There are key
markets that are growing. Financial services, media,
MO: What differences do you find in the European
corporate market versus the U.S. one?
JV: The top tier has the same companies,
organized the same way. Individually, in each country,
they want to feel they are in control of their destiny.
So even if there's a regional office in London that
controls what is going on across the European continent,
they want to be able to make their own decisions locally.
So, there is always internal struggle.
MO: What about multinationals and global accounts?
JV: We are so very keen to brand ourselves
as having the capability worldwide to manage global
accounts. Our global platform, with a globally linked
organization and with presence locally in each of those
key countries, that's what makes the difference. At
Xerox, I ran global accounts for financial services
out of Europe, but it was global, so it didn't matter
where the offices were around the world. At LexisNexis
I want to ensure that we handle the customer the way
the customer wants to be handledwhat is their
buying process, what is their criteria, what is it
they require? Very often what they require is that
we are communicating worldwide very well with their
people, but that we are selling to them on a unified
approach so the contract turns.
MO: How do you train customers? If you want to
ensure they are doing professional-level research,
what do you do to help them?
JV: Well, we have the training resources
in every country where we are resident. So, if you
are sitting here in the U.K., you'll find that I have
roughly 40 customer trainers that spend their time
with clients in the way that they want to develop it.
MO: Is it usually going to the workplace or is
it bringing people here?
JV: Both. We have it set up so that
we can do training in house or we can do training at
the location, even as so far as to say one-on-one training
if that is what is required. We have extensive training
MO: Do people pay for that or is it something
that you provide free of charge?
JV: It's provided free of charge as
a service, but, if somebody requires tremendous extensive,
MO: Then you would bill for it.
JV: Yes. But otherwise we really do
provide training as a service to our clients.
MO: Good. I gather you are sticking around for
JV: Yes. Personally I love being here.
I've lived here for 4 years and I am delighted. Somebody
asked me, "What do you think of this transition and
this move?" And I said that I've never had buyer's
remorse. Since the first day I never woke up and said, "My
God what have I done?" I love the company and how it's
metamorphosed from a stodgy legal publishing business
to a dynamic online company.
Marydee Ojala [email@example.com] is
the editor of ONLINE.
Comments? E-mail letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.