It’s a maelstrom of activity in our nation’s capital these days, making it all the harder for lawyers to keep up with federal developments and separate truth from rumor. Cognizant of that, Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory has launched a new product, the Federal Developments Knowledge Center, designed to help legal professionals stay on top of important legislative, regulatory and executive actions.

Better yet, the product is free for anyone to use, at least for the time being. Because this is a beta version of the product, with features still be built and added, Wolters Kluwer is making it available to anyone who completes a registration form. WK expects to launch the full version later this summer, at which point beta users will have to convert to a paid plan. Likely pricing has not been set.

WK’s goal in launching the center is to help legal professionals keep up with bills, regulations and executive actions and understand the potential impact of those actions on their clients. So far, the primary way this is done is through the Key Federal Developments Smart Chart.

Currently, it covers 12 broad areas — antitrust, banking and finance, employee benefits, government contracts, health care, intellectual property, labor and employment, life sciences, pension, products liability, securities and tax. Slated to be added soon are energy, environmental, global trade and immigration.

Select any one or more of these areas and you are then prompted to select the types of document you are interested in. Options are: enacted law, executive order, final rule, presidential memorandum, proposed legislation and proposed rule. You are then taken to the results page, where there are three vertical columns showing:

  • Key Federal Developments. This is the title of the relevant document, with a link to its actual text.
  • WK Commentary. This section describes the status of the document, provides a synopsis of what it does, and summarizes the likely impact and next steps.
  • Related Expert Analysis. This provides links to news coverage of the topic from WK sources. It draws on stories dating back to 2014.

In the screencap above, I started by selecting the labor and employment subject area, and then chose to view presidential memoranda, proposed legislation and proposed rules. Above you see the results for presidential memoranda. Lower on the page — visible if I were to scroll down on the page or collapse the first section — are the results for proposed legislation and rules.

By clicking a button in the upper right corner, I can change the view to a matrix, showing all results arranged in vertical columns that scroll horizontally to the right. I can also select to highlight only those updates that occurred within a recent date range or on a specific date.

Once you’ve created a Smart Chart for any search, you can save it and add it to a research folder. You can also email the chart or expert it into a Microsoft Word or Excel format.

In addition to the Smart Chart feature, the Knowledge Center also includes a feed of news headlines. These stories can be browsed by date. You can also search stories by keywords. New searches open in new tabs so you don’t lose prior results. An RSS feed is available if you wish to follow updates using an RSS reader.

Still in the works are several additional features for the Knowledge Center. One is a raw feed of “breaking news” source documents as they come in, without analysis, allowing users to be even more current on new developments.

Another feature being planned is predictive analytics for legislation. This would provide a more in-depth look at pending bills and would provide predictions of a bill’s outlook and chance of passage.

This is a critical time in Washington. Even in this beta form, the Federal Developments Knowledge Center is a useful way of keeping up with what matters to your practice. It will be free for at least a few months, so you have nothing to lose by trying it out.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.