Travis Leon XRefMicrosystems has merged with XRef Software Solutions, Legal IT Insider can reveal, bringing together two major rivals and leaders in the burgeoning document drafting, editing and review sector.

XRef’s technology has already begun to be absorbed into Microsystems’ next generation drafting and proofreading software, Contract Companion, which the Illinois-headquartered company unveiled in May 2016 and has evolved from EagleEye.

The ambition is to further leverage the strength of both technologies to bring a more robust combined product to market, and speaking to Legal IT Insider, Microsystems CEO Stacey Kacek, who took over as CEO in May 2015 from Tom O’Sullivan, said: “This really simplifies the path for customers who want to incorporate drafting capability into their firm.”

Microsystems currently only markets Contract Companion in the United States, where it works with around 80% of Am Law firms across its five core products. In the UK, Eagle Eye and now Contract Companion underpins LexisDraft, LexisNexis’ document proof reading tool.

The intention is for that collaboration to continue, unaffected by the XRef merger, with LexisDraft customers receiving the benefit of new and improved technology.

Christian Fleck, managing director of LexisNexis UK, said “This development will further strengthen our partnership with Microsystems and we look forward to our continued collaboration and innovation leadership in drafting solutions for the legal market.” The merger was also welcomed by Nigel Rea, director of precedents, drafting and forms at Lexis.

From XRef’s perspective, its recent sales and marketing activity have in any event been targeted at the U.S., where its latest wins include Baker & McKenzie, Davis Polk and Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft.

However, at the outset it is likely that there will be uncertainty and perhaps some nervousness over how the new setup will work in practice in the UK, given that XRef already works with many of the UK top 200 law firms, which will become Microsystems’ clients. XRef has a handful of UK-based employees, including UK general manager Abhijat Saraswat.

Legacy XRef UK customers will be migrated to Contract Companion and integration discussions are still taking place over how that arrangement will work in practice, in conjunction with discussions with clients themselves.

Kacek told Legal IT Insider: “The feedback from clients has been excitement; it’s been very positive for people and people are happy to have clarity. It makes the decision process easier.”

For potential clients that have been torn between Microsystems and XRef, certainly there may be a degree of relief that the decision just got simpler. The news will be less welcome at Thomson Reuters, which, with its Drafting Assistant tool, has perhaps benefited from the fierce competition between Microsystems and XRef.

Travis Leon (pictured), co-founder of XRef and a former Linklaters corporate lawyer said: “Our organisations are the two forces that have built this market. As co-founder at XRef, my objective was to help law firms around the world to better use technology in dealing with the increasing demands of the legal industry.  Working with Microsystems will accelerate the achievement of that goal by leveraging the strengths of our two organisations.”