Knowledge Management (KM) in the UK has meant something different than here in the US until recently. My top-line assessment has been that the UK gets the human aspect of KM and the US gets the technology part. We’ve both been working towards the middle with varying degrees of success.

In the UK, the human implementation has manifest most times as a Practice Support Lawyer (PSL). PSLs are SMEs (a.k.a. subject matter experts) on steroids. When a regular lawyer has a question about the law, about a contract clause or about any detailed legal issue, they go ask a PSL. The PSL is completely immersed in their subject of law and need to know it better than anyone else. So though the client interacts with the regular lawyer, the PSL is the holder of the high-value knowledge that will ultimately serve the client. In contrast, in the US when we want an answer about the law we query a system.

This week I saw an online demo from Practical Law which has taken the PSL concept, married it to technology and is offering it as an online service. Thus the post title, PSL SaaS. Under an annual subscription fee you can run searches, browse subjects, compare international laws and even generate quality first-draft documents. And when you hit the wall and need assistance they have a team of PSL-like lawyers available to help you. They’ve termed this approach “know-how” services, which is a UK KM term of art.

Practical Law has been up-and-running in the UK for some time now. This week they launched their first US product lines: Corporate & Securities and Finance. It’s more of a soft launch as they are in the process of rounding out the US offerings.

What impressed me about this offering is that it bridges the UK-Human and US-Technology KM gap. As a devotee of KM and a longtime fan of SaaS (f.k.a. as ASP), I am encouraged to see this development and hopeful for its entry into the US market. When I asked about the market demographics they describe them as quite broad; from solos to in-house counsel. Time will tell if this type of tool falls in the trend category or not.