Feature article on how online legal research and legal know-how solutions such as Practical Law and Westlaw UK can help you excel.
With the legal market in the UK continuing to undergo significant changes, the career path of any aspiring lawyer is more uncertain than ever. Firms are demanding the best output from their fee earners, particularly because of client-driven pressures. So they’re looking to retain and promote only the best trainee solicitors and newly qualified lawyers who work for them.
What can such trainees and junior lawyers do to excel in such a climate? Whatever your specialism (actual or desired), you should be capable of fast learning for any given area of legal practice thrown at you by a partner or client – indeed, you will have graduated from law school and be in practice only if you’re a quick learner in any case. Ultimately, you should be aiming for mastery of the areas of legal service you are most interested in.
In this information age, basic information on almost every area of legal practice can now be found online without having to log in to a subscription service. But relying on such an approach in a professional setting can be careless or even negligent, not least because the information you could find from a Google or Bing search is rarely properly moderated or qualified in terms of legal accuracy or by jurisdiction. (Except for certain, more consumer-facing online legal information portals such as Unlock The Law, Law Plain & Simple or Citizens Advice, which have professional content editors and moderators in place).
Similarly, if your firm relies only on books or from what other lawyers in your firm know, the information you acquire (even with the most time-intensive searching) may not be completely up to date or include the best possible sources.
Using the best possible legal information technologies to advance your legal career
If your firm doesn’t have a subscription to a state of the art online legal knowledge hub to allow you to harness the best possible legal resources and legal information technologies, you are missing out. And indeed you could seriously be holding your career back. Settling for ‘good enough’ is a dangerous approach and can lead to risks you should not have to take.
This is where Practical Law and Westlaw UK can really help you get ahead. In my time as a Trainee Solicitor in a commercial law firm over 7 years ago, these services were invaluable. They provide trusted answers across many areas of legal services, with comprehensive, up-to-date and precise legal and practical information.
Some of the main features of these services include:-
A leading legal research solution, Westlaw UK will probably be familiar to you from your law school days. If your firm doesn’t have this, you should note that the following features can be of immense practical importance and not just for academic benefit:-
– The only provider of fully consolidated, annotated legislation for UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with legislative bills and bill trackers. Case Analysis documents help you digest the outcome and meaning of a case, fast.
– Besides primary law, there are journals, EU materials, extensive news sources, over 300 commentary titles (from the Sweet & Maxwell portfolio) – all with added features and functionality designed to increase efficiency.
– With Current Awareness updated every five minutes, status icons across all cases and legislation to notify you of out-of-date law, pending amendments or appeals and alert features, you can be sure you’re always using the most authoritative, up-to-date content.
The leading legal know-how service, Practical Law can mean the difference between you spending all week and your weekend working out how to complete a certain type of legal work when a day could get the job done based on the expertise of other highly qualified and experienced practitioners. The following features are of particular significance across a wide range of types of legal practice:-
- Relevant, high-quality content gives you a better starting point and helps you get up to speed quickly on unfamiliar areas of law. More than just know-how, Practical Law also provides ‘soft-skills’ content with advice and tips for a variety of legal roles.
- Comprehensive, expertly-authored resources are continually maintained so there’s no risk of using out-of-date content. Links from content directly to Westlaw UK mean you can see underlying laws for yourself – this recent integration of selected content from Westlaw UK into Practical Law provides a more powerful individual product – you can read more about this here:- https://www.thomsonreuters.com/en/press-releases/2017/october/thomson-reuters-bridges-gap-between-practical-guidance-and-legal-research-with-closer-integration-of-practical-law-and-westlaw-uk.html
- Resources are continually reviewed to adapt and expand to meet developing needs of the market. They predict and analyse future issues, alerting you through curated Current Awareness tools.
Time for a discussion with your firm’s partners or practice manager?
So if your firm doesn’t yet have online tools in place that allows you to do the best possible legal work, it’s time to have a discussion with your firm’s partners or practice manager. Find out more about how Practical Law or Westlaw UK could help you get ahead with your legal career here: http://bit.ly/2Azbp1e
In addition, it’s worth noting that for those lawyers choosing to be self-employed / freelance, such online legal knowledge tools would be available as standard from the growing number of ‘virtual law firms‘ in the UK.