FromCounsel + Clarilis Formally Launch Automated M&A Doc Suite

FromCounsel, the specialist corporate law knowledge service, and Clarilis, the doc automation platform, have today formally launched a ‘fully maintained’ and automated M&A document suite.

James Quinn, CEO of Clarilis, told Artificial Lawyer: ‘FromCounsel have a Professional Support Lawyer (PSL) team and a group of barristers. They create the content, then our PSL team works with our [tech] to make the templates.’

Quinn noted that they are now offering a range of corporate documents. Due to high demand for their SPA suite, the second phase of the automation programme is already underway and includes documents relating to share capital re-organisation, shareholders’ agreements and articles of association.

James Quinn, CEO of Clarilis

This site covered the initial plan back in November last year. At the time Artificial Lawyer highlighted that this was a bit like what Thomson Reuters has tried to offer via combining Contract Express and Practical Law. However, in this case, the combined Clarilis/FromCounsel offering will be a truly integrated set of products that are constantly maintained to give users the confidence that they are using up-to-date templates.

Quinn added that although lawyers could of course seek to do doc automation of complex corporate documents themselves, Clarilis and its team of PSLs have seen dozens and dozens of SPA documents over the years and turned them into templates. I.e. they live and breath this activity and know how to do it very well. Meanwhile, FromCounsel are experts in this area of law, having as mentioned a team of barristers on board to add that extra level of legal insight.

Another aspect to the formal launch is a deepening of the relationship between the two companies, although Quinn said that this was primarily about working very closely together, and they would remain wholly independent businesses.

Clarilis’s clients include: Addleshaw Goddard, Baker McKenzie, GoCompare, Gowling WLG, Herbert Smith Freehills, National Grid, Slaughter and May, TLT and Travers Smith.

And, in an earlier statement, Andrew Thornton QC, CEO of FromCounsel, commented: ‘We’re excited to launch this solution for the M&A market. There’s a huge potential in bringing fully maintained, high-quality automated legal documents to the broader market, from the many smaller firms that don’t have the same access to resources as the leading firms to the larger firms looking to utilise their fee earner resources on higher value work rather than time-consuming maintenance and manual processes. Given the overwhelmingly positive reaction to this offering, we are already working on other automated document suites together.’

Is this a big deal? Fundamentally, yes. One of the challenges with doc automation is all the work that goes into maintaining templates. After all, if you’re at the leading edge of commercial law, then any template really has to be up-to-date and you need total confidence in it.

Just making a template and then leaving it there is not going to get you very far in many cases. With this new offering, Clarilis and FromCounsel marry up the tech needs with the very human legal knowledge needs. That way you get to the point of ‘it just works‘ – something that is often missing from a lot of legal tech tools.

One reason why this hasn’t been done before, other than by giants such as Thomson Reuters, is that doc automation has tended to be looked after either by law firms that have sufficient internal resources to do this kind of work – and the constant maintenance to keep those templates useable, or it’s been the preserve of ‘legal engineers’, AKA people who help lawyers with doc automation. And in many cases it’s a mix of both.

Providing an ‘all in one’ solution thereby helps law firms to get right to the end result, rather than having to divert internal resources to do this, or rely heavily on external consultants to do the work. In short, Clarilis and FromCounsel have productised the doc automation and maintenance area, at least for corporate documents.

One last thought: could other companies do this? The reality is that it’s harder than it may seem to repeat this. You need a good doc automation system – and there are many of those – but you also need all the legal expertise tied to the products on offer. The second part, such as groups of legal experts in the shape of FromCounsel, that are not inside one particular law firm, and operate independently, are quite rare.