Wolters Kluwer, a long-recognized name in the legal research game, recently announced that its award-winning research platform Cheetah has been rebranded as VitalLaw. VitalLaw is a truly native digital approach that’s much more than just a legal research platform – in addition to accessing more primary source content, consumers can also take advantage of intelligent workflow tools that help bring efficiency to day-to-day practice.
We recently sat down with Ken Crutchfield, Vice President & General Manager of Legal Markets at Wolters Kluwer, to discuss the ins and outs of VitalLaw and how it’s helping lawyers change the way they approach legal research.
What is VitalLaw in a nutshell?
VitalLaw is the new flagship research platform for Wolters Kluwer for the United States market. It’s designed to provide legal professionals in law firms and in corporations with both legal and regulatory coverage and other deep expert analysis in various areas of law that support clients, or internal customers in the case of law departments in corporations. At its core, VitalLaw helps identify how to handle complex issues of law.
The focus of VitalLaw is on practical, actionable content. The days when legal professionals turned to tables of contents and spent time reading about the history of laws are largely gone. Busy lawyers need to get the specific answers they need fast, with the help of things like checklists and charts. VitalLaw surfaces those core answers and makes them easier to find.
VitalLaw replaces Cheetah. What’s the difference between the platforms and what’s the purpose behind the rebranding?
VitalLaw is a new way for us to engage in the market – we’re bringing a whole new value proposition, not just a new name. It’s a native digital solution and a departure from how research has largely been conducted in the past, which was via print and publications.
We have an outside-the-paywall experience called VitalLaw Public that makes content like selected news stories available to non-subscribers. We’ve also expanded and delivered a comprehensive set of laws and regulations for federal law and all 50 states, including future effective dates.
In the past, customers would typically come to Wolters Kluwer for specific information in a given practice area. Now, though, they can come into our solution with any legal compliance issue in any state or jurisdiction, and we’ll have the basic content and answers for them to be able to know how to comply with law.
What pain points does VitalLaw address for lawyers?
We focus most on the legal compliance and regulatory compliance aspects of law and supporting transactional work, rather than litigation, which is a key difference from other research platforms on the market. As a result, we have deep expertise and insights into practice areas and turn them into explanations and analysis about the law and regulations. We also cover these areas from a news perspective. In addition, we provide a series of workflow tools, including SmartTasks, which help lawyers delegate specific tasks with step-by-step guidance, and Smart Charts, which provide a jurisdictional comparison of specific areas of the law.
What practice areas does VitalLaw cover?
VitalLaw covers 38 practice areas. Our flagship areas are capital markets and securities. In addition, we cover the core corporate legal areas, including tax, labor and employment, health law, privacy and cyber law, IP, antitrust, and more. The idea is that, in all of these areas, users can come to us for deep information on ideas or issues. For law departments they can research issues that might not rise to the level of needing outside counsel.
What are the various types of content that are included in VitalLaw?
Explanations and analysis of news and other timely developments are at the core of what we do. This expertise is predicated on strong underlying primary source information available in VitalLaw, including the actual text of the relevant laws and regulations. We write over 20,000 articles every year, covering the most important legal developments in a succinct way. We leverage a large network of outside authors that are authorities in specific areas of the law to create our content.
Most research platforms don’t offer workflow tools. Why are those critical to VitalLaw?
When lawyers log into research systems, they’re looking to accomplish specific tasks, not just read materials. VitalLaw works so well because it’s built around an understanding of what was going on before our users logged in and what they do after they log off. We use that knowledge to extend workflow tools that meet them where they are, make their jobs easier, and add more value.
Can you tell us more about VitalLaw Public?
At its core, VitalLaw Public is a destination for news, select case law, thought leadership, and other primary source information that we think is important to a particular practice area, organized by practice area. The content on VitalLaw Public is completely free, without needing a subscription to VitalLaw. Visitors can also access three pieces of gated content for free each month. Many of our users who find themselves increasingly relying on VitalLaw public become subscribers of our paid content.
Who can benefit from VitalLaw?
VitalLaw is ideal for legal professionals who are looking for either deep insights or ways to advise on compliance issues. For in-house attorneys at corporations, VitalLaw helps with the compliance aspects of corporate operations. It’s also designed to help law firm attorneys doing more specialized work provide proper guidance on those compliance issues to their clients. There’s a need for VitalLaw anywhere there are attorneys, including federal government and other legal organizations.
What did you learn from the rebranding? Is there anything you’d do differently?
We’re very excited about the release of VitalLaw and, for the most part, it’s been a smooth transition from Cheetah. In hindsight, we realize that we probably didn’t give our customers enough advance warning to help them prepare adequately for it. So, if I had to do it over again, I would have communicated the rebranding to the market a little bit earlier in the process and given them more visibility and specific actions we were taking so they could be more at ease. But at the end of the day, the VitalLaw release was well received and we’re seeing increased usage.
What can we expect from VitalLaw in the future?
We listen to our customers and understand and work to understand their reactions to VitalLaw so we can continue to offer more of the content and functionality they need. You can expect to continue seeing enhancements both in terms of functionality and the data itself around laws and regulations, so we can offer expanded workflows to our users.
As for our public site, VitalLaw.com, we intend to deliver even more news content over time. We expect VitalLaw.com to increasingly be a destination for people looking for the best content and thought leadership on law.
We’ve been incorporating some impressive tools like IPO Vital Signs into our broad range of offerings from Wolters Kluwer, and the market can expect to see even more products in the future, including extended functionality around laws and regulations. VitalLaw will become more of a hub, giving our users easier access to all our offerings.