Mining Law Firm Documents – A Free Ride on BigLaw?
I always get excited when I see a system that brings together some of my favorite themes: knowledge management, open source law, and best practices.
My former client Practice Technologies, Inc. provides a web-based service called RealDealDocs. It allows you easily to search for a wide range of legal agreements from leading law firms. The product pulls documents from EDGAR and other public sources and adds value by making them searchable by many criteria; you can even search by clause. I find this interesting for four reasons:
- The irony that this product does better KM across firms than many firms are able to do internally.
- Arguably, this serves as a form of open source law, that is, freely shared law. Inside and outside counsel can mine these documents for good ideas, if not actual language. (I will leave any potential copyright issues to others.)
- Corporations that want to develop best practices can systematically compare clauses and agreements to develop best guidelines. Many lawyers resist this idea, focusing on a few truly one-off cases that require totally original lawyering. But from the GC perspective, many matters look similar, so why not try to determine who is writing the best documents and use those?
- The June issue of Inside Counsel magazine has a long article, Proper Proposals [PDF], about law department RFPs. Instead of investing so much in RFPs, GC might in some instances be able to search for law firm work product and select the firm based on its past merits.
Some firms may resist but forward thinking ones will embrace the sharing enabled by public disclosure rules. PTI co-founder, at his blog John Seigler’s blog, discusses this in his post Is Displaying all these Legal Agreements legal and ethical?. In it, he describes a future feature that will allow firms to upload marketing material to accompany their documents. If GCs do start shopping by looking at actual work product, then this would be excellent “point of sale” advertising. Perhaps lawyers will learn from package good makers – the best marketing and advertising takes place when the consumer is ready to buy.
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