Case Study

Practical Law Connect efficient task-based legal resources for in-house counsel

Research study overview

Blue Hill Research conducted interviews with organizations who were early adopters of Practical Law Connect to determine why they chose to invest in the solution, including what issues drove them to make the investment, the value provided to date, and any next steps these organizations plan on taking, whether contemplating the expansion of the use of the solution or a contraction.

Why Practical Law Connect?

Legal departments have found themselves under increasing pressure to be more efficient and reduce their overall legal spend. In response, legal departments have looked to adopt solutions that have allowed them to integrate previously disparate tasks, reducing the amount of time required to complete specific tasks and the number of overall solutions that organizations have had to adopt. Reflecting this trend, Thomson Reuters introduced Practical Law Connect, which integrates Practical Law and its focus on providing legal practitioners with legal know-how with Thomson Reuters Westlaw and its access to primary and secondary sources and forms.

Practical Law Connect was developed with the particular goal of providing transactional attorneys and in-house attorneys with a single resource to the legal materials that would be most important for their practices. For many in-house counsel, the research tools available may not provide sufficient functionality or hamper the ability of legal teams to conduct and complete their daily legal tasks.

Core investment drivers

Blue Hill Research observed three key motivating factors that drove organizations to invest in Practical Law Connect:

  • Become a more efficient business unit
  • Find tools that reflect the day-to-day research needs of in-house counsel
  • Find a tool that assists the legal department with locating relevant checklists, forms and templates to improve the transactional practice of the legal department

As a group, these factors contributed to significant obstacles that organizations were having as they sought to develop a more efficient, cost-effective legal department. Previously available research tools did not provide access to the breadth of information necessary, requiring practitioners to engage with multiple tools, verify information through general, broad-based Internet searches, or contact outside counsel early in the process for general research knowledge.

Working within these limitations, the practitioners lacked effective control over legal spend, and faced significant roadblocks when attempting to conduct legal research that crossed from traditional case-based research to incorporating practical legal tips.

Task-based organization of legal resources

Thomson Reuters developed the use of task-based menus to provide users with an alternate entry point when conducting legal research, understanding that in-house counsel frequently address issues in a wide array of subject areas preventing them from becoming a subject-matter expert in any one area. The menus allow counsel to begin their search either through an "In-House Counsel Projects" menu or by searching a menu dedicated to "Practice Areas."

Organizations found that the task-based organization of legal resources allowed them to quickly identify the different aspects of the legal matter they faced, and which ones were the most relevant, by drilling down into subtopics necessary to respond efficiently to the matter. Additionally, they reported the use of Practical Law Connect provided them with the ability to conduct large research projects – such as the development of company policies – more effectively, allowing them to provide additional overall value to the organization.

The research participants reported that the flexibility offered by task-based menus provided them with the ability to delve into areas where they had little expertise and to quickly identify changes to the legal or regulatory environment that were important to their particular organization and properly provide guidance to their organizations.

Integration of Practical Law and Westlaw

Having a legal research tool dedicated to transactional tasks that also allows for easy access to both the Practical Law and Westlaw content is a driving factor into the decision to invest in Practical Law Connect.

The efficiencies gained by having a starting point dedicated to transactional tasks provide Practical Law Connect users with the opportunity to conduct additional value-adding tasks and to become a more cost-effective legal department.

Reducing the time to complete a given task allows a legal department to either reduce the amount of legal spend on outside counsel or free up time within the department to engage in additional tasks. Time-saving is closely associated with cost-saving, especially within the corporate legal department. Eighty percent of the research participants observed a noticeable improvement in the overall efficiency with which in-house lawyers are able to find the legal resources they need.

About the Author

Jim Duffy is a research analyst at Blue Hill Research focusing on enterprise risk management, compliance and policy management, and legal technology. Duffy is interested in using his background as a legal practitioner to translate the potential of emerging, new technologies as tools to improve the efficiency of the provision of legal services.

Duffy is an attorney licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Previously he has held roles in the Solicitor's Office of the United States Department of the Interior; the chambers of the Honorable Timothy S. Hillman, a federal trial judge for the District of Massachusetts; the General Counsel's Office of BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc.; and the law office of Seth H. Salinger, a business litigation firm.

You can follow him on Twitter @jsduffy42 or connect on linkedin.com/in/jamessduffy.

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