Thomson Reuters to Acquire Practical Law Company

[Revised January 9, 2013, to make my point a little clearer and to trim away some invective.]

Thomson Reuters has announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire Practical Law Company, “the London-based provider of practical legal know-how and workflow tools to law firms and corporate law departments.” Go here for the announcement.

Apparently, PLC has locked up the market in the UK, and it has done very well in the U.S. since arriving here around 2008.

But a couple of years ago, after cadging a free password, I had a look at a PLC confidentiality-agreement template.

PLC does a good business allowing BigLaw to outsource general analytical work. But based on what I’ve seen, it simply gives BigLaw the kind of product that BigLaw lawyers would cobble together if they had the time and inclination. No surprise there—after all, PLC is staffed by BigLaw refugees. (And to its credit, it also has @ContractAdviser.)

So PLC’s contract templates don’t follow a style guide. Instead, they use traditional contract language, with all the shortcomings that entails.

And when I last checked, they weren’t using technology comparable to ContractExpress.

And the analysis contained in their NDA template was nowhere near as complete that provided in the questionnaire for Koncision’s template.

Mind you, I’m keenly aware that one doesn’t want to make perfect the enemy of the good. If PLC allows you to be more efficient in creating standard product, there might well be an advantage to using PLC. And I have no alternative to offer, part from Koncision’s confidentiality-agreement template.

But I have the luxury of thinking not in terms of what is, but what should be. As I’ve said quite often, originally in this 2010 post, there’s no reason to settle for “good enough” for purposes of commoditized contract drafting.

(If you think that PLC’s approach to preparing contract templates has changed markedly in the past couple of years, let me know. By way of full disclosure, I had some preliminary conversations with PLC in 2008.)

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

7 thoughts on “Thomson Reuters to Acquire Practical Law Company”

  1. Ken, maybe a bit harsh, in my view, although I agree that who is the owner is not important. We live in an imperfect world and PLC does provide a useful service. Unlike most commercial firms in the UK, I haven’t yet brought myself to pay the subscription, which I think is excessive for the use we would make of it. In areas where we specialise (eg IP contracts) I think our own products are better, so our use would mainly be in areas where we don’t practise regularly, eg complex corporate loan documentation. My junior colleagues keep pressing for us to subscribe, so one day we may succumb…

    • Mark: I’m not dissing PLC’s services generally. And as regards their contract templates, presumably they’re better than nothing. But they seem no better than other stuff out there. And more to the point, they fall well short of the ideal. The ideal is what I’m interested in, and it’s entirely achievable. Ken

  2. This is an interesting post and I have learned a lot about practical law. I will surely be sharing this to my friends, you should keep posting important posts such as this!

  3. Ken, I’m wondering how the acquisition will work out:

    I proposed an approach much like this during my engagement with PLC. Either build their own system or buy one: it’s a standard corporate strategy question. But no one I spoke with grokked it: at the time, it was as though I was revealing that I had three eyes and four ears.

    Of course, as you note in the article above, reinventing drafting might not be the product their customers want to buy, even if they need it. Perhaps retooling will free up resources to examine the language more carefully.


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