Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Practice Point: Thomson Reuters Promises "Trusted Answsers" and Workflow Tools For the Transactional Lawyer.

Frankly I was surprised and somewhat baffled when Thomson Reuters announced the 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."

Over the past few years I have written several posts noting that all the major 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.” 

Therein lay the problem for Thomson Reuters. Westlaw had 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 saga.)

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
Practice Point was designed to leverage content from across the wide 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.

Practice areas include: antitrust arbitration capital markets and corporate governance, commercial transactions, corporate M&A, employee benefits and executive compensation, federal civil practice, finance, IP and technology, labor and employment, and real estate. There is also an section on In-House Counsel tasks e.g. launching a product.
One of the main goals was to offer a product which mirrored attorney workflow. Tasks are structured around the way attorneys 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.

The attorney editors for Practice Point have curated and selected what they regard as "the best of the best"  from Practical Law and Westlaw. Practical Law includes over 2,500 practice notes, 4,000 standard documents. Westlaw includes half a million forms and over 5,000 secondary sources.Only the most highly targeted and 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.
Special Features
The Company Investigator from Westlaw which provides an interactive company  family tree.
The”Rulebook Shelf”. 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 experience.

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.


  1. To me Practice Point sounds like a way for West to make more money off the same content. They are going down the same path the Lexis did when they had too many different platforms that all had the same content, sliced and diced in different ways and with different bells and whistles. If librarians have done their job in training Corp. Attorneys where the information is in Westlaw/PL then there is no need for Practice Point. I understand there is a desire for process improvement tools, but they don’t make sense for every firm/group and I feel that the kinks still need to be shaken out. What would be nice is if Practice Point reached out to Thomson One and included analytical financial content as well (something other than Investex). Give me more content and not the same content rebranded. However, I would be totally up for Practice Point if I could cancel my Practical Law subscription so I don’t ever have to deal with their customer/sales service reps and lack of proper administrative features.

  2. "Trusted Answsers" and Worklow Tools??

  3. To me Practice Point is just another step of WL purchasing and absorbing PLC. They purchase their competition and then put it under their administrative umbrella. The product they purchase becomes a watered down version of itself, but that doesn't matter. The main thing is the competition is gone. Same thing happened with Livedgar and others.