LexisNexis is one of the two titans of legal tech, the other of course is Thomson Reuters. Between them they maintain a powerful position in the market, but it’s one that keeps evolving. So, where is LexisNexis heading and what are the guiding principles of its strategy? Artificial Lawyer spoke to Andy Sparkes, Chief Product Officer in the UK, to find out.
Sparkes (pictured above) has just helped to launch Lexis Create, a new drafting platform that works within Microsoft Office and allows a lawyer to pull in their own clauses and also directly tap LexisNexis’s database of precedents and provisions without having to ‘change context’, i.e. flip from one application to another.
Understandably, he and the company as a whole are proud of the achievement, and see this as part of LexisNexis’s longer-term road map. But, Artificial Lawyer asked: what is this road map? Where is this giant player in the legal tech market trying to get to?
Sparkes, who manages a team of around 250 people in the UK, summed it all up with two words: legal intelligence.
This phrase defines their overarching strategy and can be expressed as: ‘First we are building comprehensive interconnected content and this takes lots of time to maintain, to structure, to enrich it, and to create the meta data.’
‘Then we are building analytical tools to allow lawyers to get deeper insights into this content and to surface things. We have invested a huge amount around the world in data science, and this is all to help extract data and then present it to lawyers.’
‘And thirdly there is how we deliver all of this inside the legal work flow, and this includes things such as visualisation.’
Sparkes then outlined some of the key aspects of LexisNexis’s product offering. It’s a huge span of capabilities and content that ranges from case law, to guidance notes, to increasingly now productivity tools such as Create.
As to the guiding philosophy that has shaped this strategy, Sparkes explained: ‘Data is fundamental to how we see the legal sector evolving. [It’s also about] finding things quickly, working smarter, wasting less time.’
But, he underlined that fundamentally ‘legal is moving towards the necessity of increased data and [an appreciation of] the value of it,’ and added that they are thinking in terms of ‘data-driven law‘.
So, what does this mean in terms of how things might change?
Sparkes noted that their parent company, RELX, did a global survey some time ago about the tech development of different sectors. The legal world came in last but one in terms of really using data. The last was government bodies.
‘Organisations need evidence to support business decisions, they demand objectivity, and we see that all the time in our own business,’ he explained. ‘And it seems inexplicable that this does not also impact the legal industry.’
I.e. data will come increasingly to the fore, not just in terms of case law research, but more broadly across the whole legal enterprise.
And the future? LexisNexis – as with Thomson Reuters – has built a commanding position in legal research for litigation. But, will there be more of a transactional focus in the future, as the Create tool seems to suggest?
On this point Sparkes said: ‘[With regard to transactional work], the reality is even things like doc automation are still a challenge for the market. But, LexisNexis is helping with clause libraries and guidance notes already [for contract creation].’
‘We want to deliver legal intelligence into the Microsoft environment,’ he added. ‘But, we also want to be more proactive, such as looking at where we can use data science to help lawyers to surface things.’
So, reading between the lines, this seems to suggest: yes, there will be more work in the transactional and contract creation sphere, but it will grow naturally out of areas where LexisNexis is already very well experienced, e.g. building legal databases and then creating tools to deliver that information to where lawyers most need it.
For now – and that could change at some point – LexisNexis doesn’t look like it’s about to splurge on buying up NLP doc review tools for due diligence, or a host of other transactional applications.
The challenge, Sparkes explained, is that LexisNexis wants to provide solutions that…well…just work. They’re happy to do all the hard work to make that possible, but they don’t want to offer the market tools where the lawyer has to then do additional work to get to a good result.
‘There is a high threshold [for the tools that LexisNexis provides]. We want to create value for the lawyers, not create more work for them,’ he explained.
And that of course is the challenge with a lot of machine learning applications: they tend to need additional input from the users to attune them to the task in hand. For many legal tech companies and their clients this is fine, and they collectively embrace this reality and have made a great success out of such tools. But, this is not LexisNexis’s cup of tea.
Lastly, Artificial Lawyer asked: if legal data is so important to the company, what about financial matters, such as billing data? Would that not be of great use to law firms and their clients? Would the company develop new tools in that area, i.e. the business of law?
Sparkes noted that they are not super-focused on that right now. But seemed intrigued by the idea of creating products there.
‘Maybe we’ll mull that over,’ he concluded.
Overall, and despite its already extensive product offering, one gets the feeling that LexisNexis and its legal intelligence strategy is going to result in a lot more creations to come.
P.S. Here’s a short video about LexisNexis Create, if you’d like to know more. Thanks to the company for sending this over.