Thomson Reuters Celebrates 150 Years: Leann Blanchfield on Making the Most of Editorial Expertise
Thomson Reuters is commemorating 150 years of customer partnership and innovation to honor the 1872 founding of John B. West Publisher and Book Seller. West’s innovative spirit lives on in Westlaw – a product that still carries his name – and in the AI-driven products and legal research technology tools used by legal professionals worldwide.
Our Legal Current series features voices across Thomson Reuters sharing how West’s legacy of customer partnership and innovation endures today. We hear today from Leann Blanchfield, head of Primary Law, Editorial, who has worked at Thomson Reuters for nearly 30 years.
“The change that’s happened during my career is astonishing”
“When I started researching in law school, we were still using the WALT [West Automated Legal Terminal],” Blanchfield recalled. “And initially, they didn’t even load the case text because it was thought everyone just needed the headnotes.”
“The change that’s happened during my career is astonishing,” she added. “The technology has advanced dramatically, and it’s how the technology works with our editorial enhancements that’s really impressive. The key is having the right information from our editorial experts combined with the AI to give you the best results.”
Blanchfield said “speed, pressure, and accuracy” are the three words that best characterize the evolution of the legal practice during her tenure, which hits 30 years next February. She described the changes she has observed and experienced.
“In our customers’ space, the pace has increased significantly,” she said. “Attorneys are working faster, billing more hours, and needing answers more quickly. In addition to the pressure to make their clients happy in less time, they also can’t afford to make mistakes. When they make a mistake, it affects their client’s outcome. It’s incredibly important that the information they get from us is accurate.”
Customers’ reliance on Thomson Reuters is at the heart of the company’s legacy of customer partnership.
More than 1,500 attorneys
“One of the reasons we have a real passion for our customers is many Thomson Reuters editors are attorneys themselves,” Blanchfield said. “Our editorial teams have 1,500 attorneys creating our content, and they understand what our customers are going through. This leads to a real connection with customers and a commitment to help them solve their problems.”
She added: “We care about our customers, and by working with them, we create a better product.”
That customer focused approach has sustained the company’s efforts for more than 100 years.
“We’re still building on what John B. West did,” Blanchfield explained. “The Westlaw Precision editorial effort was built on the Key Number System and our headnotes. We’ve taken that strong foundation and built on top of it, which sets us apart from everybody else.”
“I’ve been waiting for this forever”
She said three memorable moments in her time at the company stand out: the 1997 KeyCite launch, the WestlawNext launch in 2010, and the Westlaw Precision debut this year.
“With WestlawNext, it was such a leap forward – you can just input this natural-language search, and we’ll find this information and bring it to you.” Blanchfield said, adding that Westlaw Precision also represented “a big jump forward.”
“What Westlaw Precision does is make the most of our editorial team’s knowledge and skills,” she said. “We’re using their expertise to help solve customers’ problems and make them much more efficient. Westlaw Precision uses our editorial teams in a way that no other competitor does, and I don’t think any product can match it.”
Blanchfield has enjoyed hearing about customers’ reactions to Westlaw Precision demonstrations.
“My favorite reaction was from a sales rep who talked with a long-time customer – an older practitioner,” Blanchfield said. “And the attorney’s response was, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve been waiting for this forever!’ I thought that was amazing, because here’s someone who’s been doing research his whole career and always wanted a product like Precision. And now, with our combination of editorial excellence and technological advancement, we can provide it.”
Read more perspectives on the Thomson Reuters legacy and watch Legal Current for additional stories in the coming weeks.