A Worthy Partnering Mission Providing The Resources You Need

Sunday, January 1, 2006 - 01:00

The Editor Interviews Craig Miller, Vice President and General Manager, Corporate Division, Thomson West.

Editor: How does Thomson West partner with corporate counsel?

Miller: We provide corporate counsel with a variety of resources to help them successfully manage the demands of their practices. Thomson West also teams with the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and other organizations. For example, for several years, Thomson West has sponsored the ACC Excellence in Corporate Practice Award, which recognizes distinction in legal counseling as well as public service and civic work. These efforts give West keen insights into the needs of corporate practitioners. And we take that knowledge back to build services that support their work.

Editor: How do the services of Thomson West help corporate counsel achieve their performance goals?

Miller: We have a special version of Westlaw that is designed specifically for corporate counsel. It helps in-house lawyers maximize their performance by bringing drafting aids, checklists, on-target legal analysis and the latest changes in laws and regulations right to your fingertips.

And, as one of our educational activities, we plan to highlight, in a regular column in The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, the resources we provide that tie into topics you cover. This will give your readers who subscribe to Westlaw research tips and advice, and provide a practical tool to enable them to dig more deeply into relevant issues. Copies of our column will also appear on your Web site (www.metrocorpcounsel.com) with links that our subscribers can use to access the relevant information.

Editor: Tell me more about Westlaw resources for in-house counsel. I know that West has published cases and codes for 125 years in books, and for 30 years on Westlaw. And over the past few years you've branched out to corporate counsel.

Miller: Yes, we've designed something from the ground up, based on direct input from corporate counsel. It's called "Westlaw GC." The beauty of it is that law departments can customize Westlaw GC to provide the exact content they need and format the interface to match their workflow. This means we can provide a solution for everyone from a one-person law department to those who need broader applications.

Westlaw GC has customizable modules for transactional work, with forms and checklists, and for substantive law in areas corporate counsel face, such as employment, intellectual property and corporate governance. There is primary law as well as key practice-area treatises and handbooks.

And for corporate departments with far-ranging, multifaceted requirements, we have very extensive Westlaw solutions that are entirely customizable in terms of both content and technology. Westlaw GC underscores how West recognizes the differences in the way corporate counsel practice law, and how that's unlike outside counsel.

Editor: In-house counsel typically draft contracts in many different areas. More time is spent there than in, say, legal research.

Miller: Yes, and because of that, Westlaw offers model forms and contracts in hundreds of different areas. Business Transactions Solutions, for example, provides forms, checklists, and "the law behind the form" for a wide range of corporate business transactions. Even if you are not an expert in a certain area, you can quickly get a form and understand the legal reasons behind the clauses. The checklists give you comfort that you are not missing something.

Editor: In-house corporate attorneys spend a lot of time hiring and managing outside counsel. Can West help with that?

Miller: Yes. Westlaw contains a very practical treatise called Successful Partnering Between Inside and Outside Counsel, written by a team of in-house and outside counsel, including general counsel from Fortune 500 companies. It contains pointers on when to hire outside counsel, how to select them, and how to control costs. Other databases on Westlaw also help in hiring outside counsel, such as dockets, legal news, and Profiler, a directory of attorneys with links to their actual cases and articles.

Editor: Litigation is still the biggest line item in most corporate law department's budgets.

Miller: True. We're aware of that, and that's why Westlaw has a new focus on litigation management resources for in-house counsel. We have dispute resolution information and other tools to help in-house counsel evaluate, handle or manage cases. We have dockets via Westlaw Court Express, as well as the largest collection of briefs found anywhere.

Editor: Another challenge for in-house counsel is to keep up with the changes in laws and regulations.

Miller: Yes, we hear that all the time. In response, we have online clipping and alerting services on Westlaw. We find that they are very popular with in-house people. You can track any issue - on a service we call WestClip - in the news or in some of Westlaw's "highlights" databases for key substantive areas. We also have a special service for monitoring changes in statutes, regulations and case law; it's called KeyCite Alert. It even notifies you of pending legislation.

Recently an in-house attorney told me that a WestClip alerted him to a new California law that required sexual harassment training for employees. He asked his outside counsel about it, and together they figured out how to comply with it. In fact, back to the outside counsel question, the electronic clipping service enabled him to use outside counsel wisely, for a narrow issue that the state provided little guidance on.

Editor: Government affairs professionals also need to keep up with changes in laws and regulations. Do you reach beyond attorneys in corporations?

Miller: Yes. In fact, last January, we acquired a company called Netscan, which publishes pending legislative and regulatory information for all 50 states and the federal government. It's popular with government affairs people as well as lawyers. Netscan has easy "alert" services to help you keep track of changes, and it also gives your company the tools it needs to inform efforts to influence new legislation.

Editor: In-house corporate law libraries often have volumes and volumes of statute books, McKinney's for New York, or West's California Annotated Codes, and the USCA. What is there on the online side?

Miller: Actually, statutory research online is now easier than ever, and it's one of Westlaw's distinct advantages. We've completely revamped it to combine the best features of book and online research, which we call StatutesPlus. You can now browse a table of contents or an alphabetical index online, just like you would in books. You can even search the index. I remember having stacks of open books piled on top of each other when I practiced law. While research in our books still has benefits, now, online, you can simply click and link out to treatises, articles and cases that interpret your statute. And instead of going to pocket parts and legislative service pamphlets, it's all right there for you. You can be confident that you have the latest and are not missing anything. You can see whether there is pending legislation that might affect your company, or whether a certain statute has been overruled. It's automatically displayed by a warning signal right on the screen.

Editor: It can be a challenge for an in-house counsel to know the laws affecting her company in all different states.

Miller: That too was one of our major undertakings last year. We now have 50-state surveys on Westlaw, pre-done surveys on the laws in all 50 states on issues that confront corporate counsel every day. You can save time and money. These sorts of projects were often expensive undertakings by outside counsel, and now you have it pre-done for you on Westlaw. You can easily make state-by-state comparisons.

Editor: How does Thomson West, as a company that serves attorneys, support the diversity initiatives and pro bono activities of its corporate customers?

Miller: Our company supports them, and even our online products do.

For example, as I mentioned earlier, for several years Thomson West has sponsored the ACC Excellence in Corporate Practice Award. The 2005 winner was Gloria Santona, general counsel of McDonald's, who helped create a diversity pipeline project at McDonald's, as well as a program that educates children about the legal profession, democracy and human rights. Other recent winners include Ken Frazier, general counsel of Merck, who won the release from prison of an innocent man who was on death row for 15 years, and Rick Palmore, general counsel of Sara Lee, who is also strongly committed to public service.

In addition, West has online materials that help companies evaluate their commitment to diversity, such as our HR Advisor service, which contains a checklist of diversity standards and goals, as well as a section on cross-cultural training.

Editor: Regulatory research has traditionally been difficult. Can Thomson West make it easier?

Miller: I'll give you a "sneak preview" - Westlaw will soon launch RegulationsPlus, the largest editorial undertaking in the history of West. West, for the first time, is annotating the CFR, using its expertise as creator of the National Reporter System, the digests, and the USCA. RegulationsPlus lets you quickly find the most current regulation, any proposed changes to it, and links to relevant USCA sections and federal agency material. You can also be alerted to any future agency action.

Editor: How does Westlaw help non-attorneys deal with compliance issues in specific areas?

Miller: We know that in some compliance areas, the work in a corporation is done by non-attorneys who are knowledgeable on a specific topic. For insurance compliance professionals, for example, we have a product called WIC - Westlaw Insurance Compliance - a streamlined interface that gives quick access to the most current insurance statutes, regulations, and bulletins, as well as alerts to relevant changes.

Also, for environmental, health and safety compliance, we have the ENFLEX libraries on Westlaw. Their strength is in making regulatory change more manageable.

Editor: Securities and finance are focus areas in this issue. What does Westlaw have here?

Miller: We have a strong collection in the banking area. We discussed compliance issues, and Westlaw has the A. S. Pratt & Sons publications of Sheshunoff Information Services, which are excellent resources for banking compliance. For securities, we have INVESTEXT reports - which contain very good industry analyses - as well as just about everything else you'd need - SEC Releases, No-Action Letters, Edgar Filings, NASD Materials, NYSE Materials, SEC Arbitration Awards, Commodity Futures Trading Decisions and State Blue Sky Materials. And GSI, the people who created LIVEDGAR, were recently brought into the Thomson fold.

Editor: How does Westlaw support the global role of U.S. corporations?

Miller: Thomson, as you know, is a global company, with operations in 45 countries. We have legal and business information providers around the globe, and the Westlaw interface itself is now available for other countries' laws, including the EU, Australia, Hong Kong and Canada. Westlaw also has sources on international trade, international arbitration and ADR, and international law.

Editor: Our geographic focus this month is the United Kingdom. Does Westlaw offer UK materials?

Miller: Yes. Sweet & Maxwell is a Thomson-owned legal publisher in the UK. And there is a UK version of Westlaw. Westlaw UK contains legislation, regulations and case law for the UK and the EU, as well as analytical information, periodicals, directories, and news. For example, one database - The United Kingdom-Journals and Law Reviews - is a good collection of analytical sources.

Editor: In this issue, we also have West coast focus. Does Westlaw have unique offerings for the California corporate counsel?

Miller: Yes. Westlaw contains the Witkin treatise, which is very popular because it thoroughly summarizes the legal issues that a corporation might face in California. And there are the Rutter Practice Guides, which are very practical. Rutter titles like California Corporations and Enforcing Judgments and Debts give "real world" advice for California corporate counsel.

Editor: In-house counsel, even if they don't specialize in employment, often deal with employment issues. How can Westlaw help?

Miller: We have the Employment Coordinator series, a tremendous resource for benefits, compensation, labor relations, HR administration, and virtually any employment issue. It's useful to HR professionals as well as attorneys. It gives jurisdictionally specific information, with extensive checklists, so you can easily know the employment laws in all the states in which you do business.

Editor: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, and the people Thomson West dedicated to the corporate market?

Miller: Today we have a team of representatives around the country devoted exclusively to the corporate market. They have expertise in the information, technology and business needs of in-house counsel. Some of them practiced law in-house before joining us. Personally, I've been with Thomson West for more than 20 years, starting with the old West Publishing. I've seen Westlaw advance from a dedicated terminal with a primitive black and green screen - and when I said "on-line" back then people thought I was talking about standing in a queue - to the internet-based system it is today. I've also seen Westlaw progress from being a system featuring mostly cases, digest topics and key numbers to the all-encompassing legal and business solution it is today.