Wolters Kluwer Sells Legal Book Business to Private Equity Firm

Wolters Kluwer (WK) announced in a September 27 press release that it has signed a binding agreement with Transom Capital Group (Transom) to sell its legal education business for $88 million in cash. WK reports this move “will allow Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S. to further advance its focus on supporting legal professionals with the domain expertise and state-of-the-art solutions that they need.” The legal education business produces student textbooks and digital education materials for law students, and is reportedly profitable with revenues of $33 million in 2020.

So what is Transom? Records show it is a privately held equity company incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Los Angeles. Transom makes mid-market buyout investments in various sectors, and it focuses on “middle management investment opportunities that exhibit great potential.” Transom was founded in 2008, and started out investing in companies that make audio equipment, concert tee-shirts and promotional items. Transom has a broad and eclectic investment profile and its current portfolio includes, among other companies, Cross Pens, Beauty Quest Group, Bravo Sports, Makie audio, and Scantron.

Although holdings such as Bridge Tower Media may show Transom putting a toe in the publishing pool, academic publishing appears to be a new venture. In a 2017 news story reporting the Cross Pens acquisition, Transom was described as having a “hands-on approach that provides operational involvement and support without overwhelming the management team.”[1] This may come as some comfort to the 50 full-time employees currently working for WK Legal & Regulatory. We will all eagerly await what this deal means for our students and our faculty who rely on WK legal textbooks.


[1] 2017, Nov 16. Transom Capital Acquires A.T. Cross Company: Nation’s oldest and largest manufacturer of writing instruments poised for expansion with growth capital. NASDAQ OMX’s News Release Distribution Channel.  

Document Analytics in Academia

Is there a place for document analytics products in the law school legal research curriculum?

Document analytics platforms have a big footprint on the legal tech landscape, and at least one is nudging its way into academia. Newcomer Kira https://kirasystems.com/  is offering a “Kira for Education” initiative to some in the academic community. Kira provides a machine-learning platform that identifies, extracts, and analyzes language in documents the user can drag and drop into a template. Kira also offers a customizable search tool that allows users to highlight sample document language and create their own custom platform. Kira can search documents written in other Latin-based languages, including English, French, and Spanish.   Contract analytics products have been on the market for years, although these products don’t typically target law schools.  LawGeex, LinkSquares, Contract Wrangler, Affinitext, IntelAgree, and Docusign are just a few of the many contract analytic products currently available.

Some academic research platforms currently provide access to programs that can assist with contract drafting. Lexis Practical Guidance offers “Smart Forms” that include sample customizable forms for various industries and in numerous jurisdictions. These forms contain drafting note advice that alert the user to specific legal issues when incorporating certain language. Bloomberg Law’s Draft Analyzer allows the user to upload a contract and will compare clauses in that contract to other similar contract language within its database.  Bloomberg is currently beta testing an analyzer for merger agreements.  Westlaw offers “Contract Express,” but this product is not included in academic accounts.

Even with an already crowded legal research curriculum, it may be time to consider the best way to expose our students to these increasingly popular products. It would also be great to hear from our colleagues in law firms about which of these products seem to be getting the most traction, so that we can better prepare our students for practice.

In legal tech, complexity is overrated.

A recent survey from the ABA shows that law firms remain slow to adopt AI products. https://tinyurl.com/ABATechSurveyArticle  In fact, just 7% of respondents reported they use AI tech tools, with questions about accuracy and the cost offered as the primary reasons for the slow uptake. Since the survey was conducted in the initial months of the pandemic, this might come as a surprise. As we all spend our days on Zoom, technology adoption has been at the forefront of efforts to increase productivity while decreasing the need for personal interaction. However, the fundamental problem with many of the newer AI legal research tools is that they do not yet replace any necessary steps in the legal research process. Why incur the cost of these programs and invest in learning them without any consistent benefit, particularly at a time when firms are looking to cut costs?

AI products leave us in a conundrum in the research teaching community. As a group of early adopters when it comes to legal tech, we have been disappointed at the lack of transparency when it comes to understanding the search algorithms or the opportunity to experiment with some of these products. There is also often aggressive marketing directly to our students, who don’t understand these products either and come to us for guidance. We want to keep our students abreast of the latest technology that can help them in their legal careers. However, it is hard to teach students about a product we don’t understand.

Legal analytics products (for example, those products that correlate rulings and motion success rates), on the other hand, seem to be getting better law firm traction. However, even analytics products can give uneven results. A recent ABA article highlighted a study by law librarians at two large firms comparing search results between analytics platforms, and discovered wide variations in response to simple research commands. https://tinyurl.com/yyffw7jv . The authors’ takeaway was a familiar one: vendors must provide transparency, training and guidance on the use of their products.

Simplicity may be the key to longevity for all of these products, an idea underscored by a recent story in Legaltech news from Law.com, which describes law firm reluctance to give up Excel for more complicated management products https://tinyurl.com/y562hsvv .  Products marketed with transparency in their database content and search algorithms may ultimately win the day. Such products are easier to teach and inspire confidence in their results.  In this time of Covid-19, when we are all starting to feel tech fatigue, there may be a message here for our vendors. Remember the well-worn acronym, KISS (keep it simple, silly).