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The thing about gigantic databases, like the great library at Alexandria, is that it can be hard to find exactly what you’re looking for, unless you really know what you’re doing. LexisNexis’s research engine is a modern-day labyrinthine library. But with a new product release, Lexis endeavors to make things easier to find, by providing “on-point” access for transactional attorneys.
In advance of the LegalTech New York show for 2012, Lexis has released its new Practice Advisor product. Practice Advisor is Lexis’s answer to the overwhelming girth of its content search engine. In an age of information overload and content fatigue, where the trend is in the provision of deeply focused results (witness Google’s recent maneuver to override “search” with “Search, plus Your World“), the legal research world could no longer avoid a product like Practice Advisor. As you may yourself witness, through screen shots and further information available via its official product home page, the idea behind Practice Advisor is that focused results for legal topics and subtopics can be delivered through an online dashboard that culls the most relevant Lexis search content, as supplemented by counsel from leading practitioners in the selected areas of practice.
Practice Advisor aggregates content and supplemental information that is delivered by a how-to/instructional platform, purporting to walk practitioners step-by-step through discrete transactions. It’s like TurboTax for your law firm; it’s like a hornbook for the practice of law.
Practice Advisor is simple in its design, but is potentially very powerful in its delivery of practice guidance. It is unique both with respect to what content it delivers and how it delivers that content. Practice Advisor’s overarching categorization is by transactional practice area, for leading jurisdictions. (Currently, Business Law is the only existing module; Financial Restructuring and Bankruptcy is due to be released in spring 2012, with more modules to follow on its heels—in short order, no doubt, should the initial modules prove desirable to the marketplace.) Within the main categorizations exist a number of subtopics (e.g., for “business law,” “business financing” → “secured loans”). Each topic and subtopic is broken down across eight access points, with three types of content available through each access point:
The home page allows users to toggle between the eight access points within the selected topics and subtopics via tabbing functionality; if tabbing fails, search tools are also available. Alerts for new content are apparent and easily accessible; there’s even an “Ask the Authors” link.
The Overview, Practical Guidance and Forms tabs represent what’s new under the sun. These three tabs combine to provide the appropriate array of instructions necessary to construct specific deals from end-to-end. Much of this content is new material drafted or existing material supplemented by the Practice Advisor editorial team. The Overviews purport to be plain-language primers for various transactions. The Practical Guidance tab offers transaction road maps, with checklists and practice notes. Forms are downloadable template documents, complete with drafting notes and alternative clauses.
The remaining tabs consist of existing Lexis content, chosen by the editorial team for relevance to the module selected. The Legal Analysis tab includes links to analytical resources across the Lexis universe, including associated brands, like Matthew Bender. Similarly, the Cases and Codes tabs lead to an array of the most relevant cases and codes for the module. Emerging Issues and News tabs offer a look into trending topics within the module selected, with links to relevant articles and other sources. The utilitarian theory behind the secondary tabbing structure is that the user will get to “on-point” resources with far less labor than necessitated by the alternative requirement of performing various searches in the field.
There is much to recommend in Practice Advisor. For one, there’s no learning curve, or training required. Follow the tabs. Click on the links. Get on-point quicker. The speed with which users can be “up” and the array of resources and guidance available are potential boons for several classes of transactional attorneys. Most obvious, perhaps, are the efficiency savings that can be gained by experienced practitioners who use this product. New associates will be able to get up to speed faster, too; this saves the firm money, and them and their mentors’ time. By providing what are, essentially, check-down progressions for various transactions, Practice Advisor offers a road map to real practice for new attorneys, when that sort of practical instruction is otherwise sorely lacking in the traditional education of law graduates. Among the “new” content features, the template forms creation functionality is potentially the most powerful; automating document production will likely end up being the most significant time savings accessible through the regular use of Practice Advisor.
While much of the generated fanfare seems to focus on the “new” content, and the bona fides of the crack editorial team, I think that the aggregation of existing content is maybe the best thing about Practice Advisor. Organizing the best of the gigantic Lexis information repository as it relates to specific transactions is kind of a big deal, especially when that rejiggered content is supplemented by practical guidance. Having access to that sort of filter, and then someone to tell you what that filtered information means, means that Practice Advisor is the omniscient, 24/7 mentor you’ve always wanted. And, while the nascent version of Practice Advisor is inherently limited by the lack of modules, the build-out, when made, will make the product substantially useful for a major percentage of transactional attorneys.
For the state-sanctioned version of events, including on the genesis of Practice Advisor and why it was built for transactional attorneys, check out the Lexis press release. For further product features and information about pricing, visit the Practice Advisor home page.
Jared Correia is the law practice advisor at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program. Prior to joining LOMAP, he was the Publications Attorney for the Massachusetts Bar Association. Before that, he worked as a private practice lawyer. Jared is a graduate of Suffolk University Law School and of Saint Anselm College, where he was a captain of the debate squad that finished as national runner-up in 2000. He loves James Taylor.
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