release of Practice Point several months ago. At first glance it seemed to be a
slimmed down version of Practical Law. Why two
different products? Where does it fit on a lawyer’s desktop? How does it relate to Westlaw?
I spent some time talking to Craig Vaughn, the product’s Strategy Manager and Mindy Sciarini, Senior strategy associate and exploring Practice Point on my own. According to Vaughn, Practice Point is designed to provide transactional lawyers with “trusted answers in one place.”
legal publishers ( TR, LexisNexis, Bloomberg BNA and Wolters Kluwer) were evolving from providing ”
pure content” to offering content woven with process. Research products were sprouting workflow tools. Practice Point is not an outgrowth of Westlaw. The original West Publishing Company which created the National Reporter System for legal research had a slogan “forever associated with the practice of law.”
Westlaw, their online product, could have had a corollary slogan: “forever associated
with the practice of litigation.”
been built around caselaw and no matter how much corporate content they added,
corporate lawyers viewed Westlaw as a caselaw research system built around the needs and workflows of litigators. Even though Westlaw
was loaded with corporate treatises, commentary, forms, corporate profiles and
business information, there was no easy way for transactional lawyers to locate
and retrieve useful practice resources buried in the terabytes of Westlaw data.Westlaw executives have been puzzling over this challenge for more than a decade.
After Thomson Corporation (TR’s predecessor company)
purchased Global Securities Information in 2005, I recall Thomson executives suggesting that GSI content would be used develop a new product focused on the needs of
transactional lawyers. They rebranded GSI as Westlaw Business which launched at the dawn of the great recession. The product faced a shrinking market and client dismay at higher prices for the same SEC focused content. (I will forego a retelling of the complete Westlaw Business
Then in 2013 Thomson Reuters acquired Practical Law Company, a UK based “know how” product which is bursting with transactional practice expertise, clauses, checklists and commentary. Practical Law offers an exhaustive topical approach with encyclopedic depth. Practice Advisor, by contrast, is selective and organized around workflow. Practical Law contains transactional workflow tools. Practice Point was built to BE a transactional workflow tool.
It has taken them a while, but Thomson Reuters has finally succeeded in creating product tailored to the workflows and content needs of transactional and business lawyers. As if to underscore the complete break with Westlaw – Practice Point contains no caselaw!
Leveraging Thomson Reuters Assets
landscape of Westlaw assets including: statutes, news, company information, market trends, regulatory
materials, treatises and SEC filings. Practice Point is not simply a curated
version of Practical Law it is a curated version of all Thomson Reuters assets which can help a transactional practitioner. Practice Point organizes 2,000 tasks across multiple practice areas and in-house
counsel projects. Practice Point attorney – editors curated each task, form, statute, comment etc. from millions of resources across
Thomson Reuters repositories. The platform uses a menu structure by practice area and
task to enable lawyers to quickly pinpoint what they need to do. Although menus are the primary form of access,
the product is also searchable using the
traditional West search algorithm.
approach problems. The menu driven structure allows lawyers to select
subtopics within a workflow. For example, if an attorney is looking to
structure a business organization they can read background materials, review
checklists, drafting material, templates, commentary, forms and secondary
sources. I do have one criticism. Some of the standard forms did not display well. Since they have curated forms which originally appeared in treatises… the forms look like, well… pages of treatises. I hope TR invests in making these forms interactive and visually appealing to a digital user.
relevant materials related to specific lawyer tasks and workflows have been incorporated into Practice Point.
Looking at the Corporate M & A page, your can navigate by task type ( Private equity fund, Private M&A, Public M&A or Browse by content type, (merger agreements, laws, forms, treatises). The center panel contrains daily practice news and Reuters News. The right column includes, What’s market, the business law center ( public filings), company search, foreign country Q&A and corporate related CLE.
Relevant rulebooks enable a lawyer to quickly retrieve laws and regulations
relevant to the task at hand. The rulebooks provide a “browse-able” book like
What’s market – Offers custom graphics on the fly including charts, graphs and tables which show frequency of key deal terms.
Business Law Center – access public filings from Westlaw Business
State and Country Q & A – check state and foreign country laws and requirements.
Drafting Assistant – the Thomson Reuters drafting tool will be integrated in the near future.
Where’s the market?
Thomson Reuters would like to dominate the transactional lawyers desktop the way Westlaw has dominated litigation for decades… But they are not the first to market in the transactional workflow space.
Practice Point is playing to the process improvement, Lean Six Sigma movement. Firms which are still assessing the cost of building their own practice workflow desktop may find that purchasing Practice Point is a more cost effective and reliable option. Law firm workflow improvement initiatives often depend on a few key staff and can come to an abrupt halt when priorities shift or a key staff member departs. Efficiency is not a luxury in the legal market… it is regarded as “table stakes.” So the market is ripe for solutions like Practice Point.
Existing Practical Law subscribers will not be happy about the prospect of paying a separate subscription for Practice Point. TR is bound to face some interesting challenges and discussions when they make this pitch. Those of us who have been begging for digital “rulebooks” will be especially annoyed to find that these primary law assets are available on Practice Point but not the more robust Practical Law platform.
Practice Point will be a much easier sell for firms which are struggling to create “home brewed” workflow tools and firms which have not yet invested in Practical Law or its competitors (Lexis Practice Practice Advisor and BloombergBNA’s BloombergLaw: Corporate Transactions).
When Thomson Reuters acquired Practical Law, I speculated that the acquisition would not make sense if “PLC is to be an island within an ocean of TR content.” I immediately saw opportunities in aligning PLC with the Westlaw
Business and Dealproof (now called Transactional Drafting Assistant). Well I was wrong. Practical Law was not the convergence point for all of the TR assets… the convergence point is Practice Point.