This report first appeared in the latest Legal IT Insider

Thomson Reuters has pledged to stick to Business Integrity’s (BI’s) existing plans and enable law firms to continue providing bespoke contract automation solutions to their clients, after announcing on 1 October that it has acquired BI and its flagship ContractExpress solution.

According to Lucinda Case, vice president of customer segments and strategy within Thomson Reuters’ legal business, the roadmap developed for ContractExpress by co-founder and EMEA vice president Richard Newton and his team, including respected chief technology officer Andy Wishart, will remain unchanged despite the acquisition.

However, ContractExpress will become fully integrated with Thomson Reuters’ know-how resource Practical Law and the publishing giant is also looking at incorporating its proof reading tool Drafting Assistant. Speaking to Legal IT Insider, Case said: “Customers and prospects are keen to hear about the roadmap for Business Integrity and we are sticking to the existing ContractExpress roadmap.

“We see it as crucial that we let the business that Richard founded carry on building momentum. We get weekly product updates and it is growing at a phenomenal rate. Acquisitions can be disruptive but they have managed to carry on working normally.”

As predicted by rivals and customers at the time the acquisition was first announced, ContractExpress will be used in place of FastDraft as Practical Law’s automation tool. Users of ContractExpress will be able to consume Practical Law contracts via the automation tool, while the dual integration will mean that subscribers to Practical Law will be able to automate contracts using ContractExpress.

The new-and-improved Practical Law service looks set to compete for the GC dollar with the white labelled automated contracts being offered by law firms such as Ashurst, DWF and Clifford Chance to their clients, using their own standard forms and know-how. At the time the acquisition was announced one ContractExpress relationship partner at a top 30 firm said: “Are Thomson Reuters playing in the space of supplier of products to law firms or are they now competing with law firms?”

However, Case said: “Although we sell content and now this technology to legal departments, we are not competing with the law firms in this space who are developing very bespoke solutions for their clients. “We are talking to a number of law firms and prospects about the client self-serve model and I can see why they would want that arrangement. It’s very exciting that law firms using this technology will be able to deliver their content to a very large user group.” Case and Newton have over the past month been meeting both in-house and private practice customers to discuss the acquisition, which was privately met with nervousness and irritation by a number of law firm clients, many of which had received assurances that Business Integrity and its flagship automation tool ContractExpress was not for sale.

Clients were made aware of the sale via a generic email on the morning of 2 October, leading one top 50 partner to tell the Legal IT Insider: “It caught us completely by surprise, which is not the greatest experience for a customer.”

However, the move has been welcomed by clients including major ContractExpress user Reckitt Benckiser, where vice-president and general counsel within group legal affairs and compliance, Claire Debney told Legal IT Insider: “I would hope that it could lead to more integrated solution, as these offer so much on their own but can offer much more if integrated in a way that can provide seamless solutions – for example ContractExpress with World-Check built in to verify each party that you create a contract for (this is one on my wish list) then integrate it all in Serengeti (another one on my wish list).”

While Thomson Reuters has plans to invest in Business Integrity and its acquisition was said by UK and Ireland managing director Jan-Coos Geesink to “support our vision of a more efficient and connected legal ecosystem”, for the time being it is sticking to the knitting.

Case said: “Serengeti is a very important product and has great connection points but right now we are focusing on drafting and sticking to the road map.”

To register for all the latest news in our monthly digital magazine click here