Gunderson Dettmer drives efficiency and innovation with Practical Law

This law firm finds the answers they’re looking for with a reliable source for trusted legal information

Founded in 1995 in Silicon Valley, Gunderson Dettmer has grown to 11 offices and over 400 attorneys and is recognized as the leading international law firm focusing solely on the innovation economy. The firm provides legal services to venture-backed and public technology and life sciences companies as well as to the top venture capital investors in the world

Gunderson is exclusively focused on the innovation economy, helping forward-looking startups as they grow, mature, and scale into global technology and life sciences behemoths. They are also a leader in the venture and growth equity fund-formation space, serving over 600 fund firms and thousands of their underlying funds. They’ve also done more venture capital financing than any other law firm. According to PitchBook Global League Tables, which ranks the top venture capital law firms globally, Gunderson has consistently secured the number-one spot for nine years in a row.

To maintain the firm’s leadership position, Chief Knowledge Officer Naveen Pai and Chief Innovation Officer Joe Green work hand in hand to keep Gunderson’s lawyers operating at the top of their game. Together, they’re focused on exploring the next digital innovations while figuring out how to better leverage existing tools and resources. The ultimate goal is to get practitioners at the firm the information they need while also streamlining business processes and driving the firm forward. “We spend a lot of our time just looking at how we can future-proof Gunderson,” says Green, “making sure that we’re competitive today, and thinking about how we can continue to be the leading firm in our market five to 10 years from now.”

Practical Law — the source for legal information

Gunderson Dettmer is not new to Practical Law — the firm has been using the resource for many years, having recognized its value early on.

In fact, Joe Green took a short detour from his career at Gunderson to work at Thomson Reuters as a subject-matter expert writing startup content for Practical Law. There, he got to see firsthand how content is created and continually kept up to date by the company’s massive team of expert legal editors.

That experience gave Green “incredible confidence in the quality of the product.” But he didn’t need to work there to figure that out. “The reality,” he adds, “is that any lawyer who takes the time to look at Practical Law resources very quickly realizes that whoever wrote those resources has done the work. They’re real experts who understand what they're talking about.”

Practical use cases for Practical Law

Upon returning to Gunderson, Green stepped into his role building the firm’s innovation function, where he’s been working with Pai to explore new ways of leveraging Practical Law to get it into the hands of more practitioners at the firm.

According to Pai, they have different uses for Practical Law but rely on it primarily to find answers to questions. “We’re also using HighQ [another Thomson Reuters solution] to maintain a wiki with information that’s pertinent to our practitioners,” he adds. The wiki houses information on topics relevant to the firm’s nuanced experience and areas of expertise. Within the wiki, they find themselves linking out to Practical Law with supportive information. Pai comments, “If we’re writing an article for the wiki, we're not writing it like it should be on Practical Law. Instead, we're pointing to Practical Law first and then explaining how things might be a bit different for our practice.” Practical Law is the kernel of knowledge, adds Green: “And we’re supplementing it with Gunderson’s expertise, experience, and particular way of doing things.”

Pai and Green have a standard response when questions come their way. “We first tell practitioners to look at our wiki. Then look at Practical Law. And then they can email us their question,” says Pai.

But Pai and Green rely on Practical Law, too, especially when they need to brush up on specific topics or when a particularly novel or challenging question comes their way. According to Green, “Practical Law is the framework from which to leap into solving challenging problems. It provides confidence, reminding us of all of the considerations that we should be thinking about for a particular issue.”

Practical Law is also perfect for issue spotting, notes Pai. In a firm like Gunderson, where corporate attorneys on the front line are continually fielding questions from startup clients — many of which have no in-house lawyer — they need a resource that will allow them to understand a broad range of issues at a basic level so they can then direct those queries to the right place.


High confidence and other benefits

At Gunderson, Pai and Green see Practical Law as delivering tangible benefits to practitioners and higher-level benefits to the firm. It has become their go-to solution for:

  • Reducing repetitive work and saving valuable time. With Practical Law, Gunderson gets the concise, accurate information they need. There’s no starting from scratch. “Practical Law is basically making grunt work go away,” says Green. “Work that is grueling for junior associates and work, quite frankly, that clients don't want to pay for,” he adds. It also frees up the entire firm — Pai and Green included — to perform the high-value services that clients actually care about.
  • Providing reliable, trusted information. Practical Law users can be confident that the information they’re getting is reliable and current. “You can go to Practical Law and know very quickly if the article has been maintained or needs to be updated,” states Pai. Green explains, “Editors at Practical Law are on top of changes and know what resources are affected. They’ll even put a note at the top of an article saying things like, ‘Hey, don't rely on this piece of it. Read this other thing while we update this article.’”
  • Serving seasoned and novice practitioners alike. The depth and breadth of the content on Practical Law are also suited for different knowledge levels. “A very experienced practitioner can go to Practical Law and get the deep answers they need,” according to Green. “But at the same time, a summer associate with limited knowledge can go to the overview article, look at the glossary terms, and get their bearings.”

Making progress with an actionable solution

The bottom line is that it comes down to what you need. The Thomson Reuters Practical Law solution provides much of what the practitioners at Gunderson Dettmer are looking for: answers.

“There's really not much else like it,” says Green. “While there’s a lot of great information out there, like legal treatises, which are very detailed, academic, and theoretical, that’s not what Gunderson needs. “We don't have a whole lot of time to be theoretical. We're always looking for the answer.” 

He adds, “We want to understand the issue well enough to know what the pitfalls are, what the risks are, and how the process should go. And that's always the focus of Practical Law. If it's not something that's practical and actionable and clearly articulated, then that's just not Practical Law.”

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About Gunderson Dettmer

Gunderson Dettmer is the preeminent international law firm focusing exclusively on the innovation economy. The firm serves market-leading venture capital and growth equity investors and pioneering companies through inception, growth, and maturity, as well as groundbreaking public companies that result from the global venture capital ecosystem. The firm’s clear-cut focus and well-honed technical skills enable an accelerated pace and unmatched efficiency, delivering best-in-class value at each phase of a client’s business.

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