Practical Law Company (PLC) (www.practicallaw.com) is invading the United States later this year. Like the Beatles did for music, the British invasion from PLC looks like it will change knowledge management for law firms. Jeroen Plink and Denise Caplane of PLC bought me lunch and gave a demo of the UK deployment of Practical Law and a preview of the US deployment of Practical Law.
Why Use Practical Law Company?:
- Increase efficiency and productivity
- Cost Savings
- Risk control
- Attract and retain talent
- Training and Professional Development Tool
Obviously, those are the goals of knowledge management. But can PLC pull all of this off? So what does PLC actually do?
It is web-based collection of transactional documents, notes, articles and know-how. All these resources for its US deployment are developed and maintained by US lawyers in PLC’s NY office.
To show how it works, Jeroen jumped into the process a junior lawyer might go through for a private stock acquisition. You either browse to the private stock acquisition section or search for a “private stock acquisition.” All resources relating to private stock acquisitions are assembled in one location: practice notes (explanatory notes), standard documents/forms, market practice analysis, checklists and news items. You can start off with practice notes section and can pull up an overview of this type of transaction. The overview goes through matters such as the typical structure of this type of transaction, the key documents, interests of the main players and what the key documents do.
Then you can jump to the standard documents/forms. Most form documents also have drafting note document that take you through each provision in the document, what each provision does and practical tips for either party to the deal. You can download the form document into Word using either a PLC standard style or your firm styles. (You do know how to use Word Styles? Don’t you?) Even better, many of the forms have an automation feature called FastDraft. This document assembly engine allows you to answer a few questions and have the draft document be better suited to your transaction and fill in repetitive information.
The subject area also has checklists, legal updates, articles and a glossary on that area of the law.
The materials are labeled as maintained meaning they are maintained and updated by the PLC staff attorneys. Or they are labeled with a last updated date, which is mostly used for articles and news.
Jeroen moved on to the market analysis feature of Practical Law called “What’s Market.” For public transactions, they do a summary of significant transactions and chart key terms. This allows you to search by deal type to see key terms. For example, you can pull a chart of break-up fees for transactions similar to the one you are negotiating or risk factors in 10k’s in a particular industry.
Practical Law has collections of briefs on cross-border transactions so you can see how transactions are handled in other countries. These are outsourced by law firms in those countries, not the Practical Law staff. I assume those firms do it to attract work. Law Departments are big users of Practical Law in the UK.
You can also personalize Practical Law for your firm. You can add annotations to items that are viewable just for your firm. For example, you can note that your firm handles these type of issues in a different way and links to other resources.
Since Practical Law is web-based you can also integrate it into your enterprise search tool and index the Practical Law content along with your firm’s internal content.
The invasion by Practical Law is scheduled for later this year. The initial subject areas will be limited to (a) Corporate and Securities and (b) Finance. They have plans to expand beyond those subjects into a robust collection of information on US law. One of the challenges in the US is the number of jurisdictions involved. When they move to real estate they will have 51 different jurisdictions that each handle things in a different way (51? Don’t forget Washington D.C.!)
Practical Law is surprisingly inexpensive. There is a sliding scale of prices, but it should be less than $2000 per attorney, depending on the number of subjects, size of the firms, etc.
Practical Law has an army of attorneys producing their information. According to Jeroen, his staff is comprised of attorneys from the top law firms (http://www.practicallaw.com/5-382-8863). It seems to me that it may be much cheaper (and easier) to buy into PLC’s army of KM attorneys than it will be for an individual firm to do the same.
Practical Law offers up a free trial period once it launches in the US. I think this may be like a crack dealer offering free samples to get you hooked.