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September 14, 2010 1:09 PM

Latham Launches IPhone App for Deal Lawyers

Posted by Brian Baxter

JargonHomePage_resize Latham & Watkins is getting into the social media game with the launch of a new iPhone application geared to deal lawyers. The firm has developed a digital glossary of more than 750 financial, legal, and regulatory terms used by capital markets and banking lawyers for its recently released app.

"Every profession has a language that it uses to exclude novices, and we really wanted to demystify some of this stuff," says Latham capital markets cochair Kirk Davenport II. "I went to Brown and studied solar architecture, so when I was a first-year lawyer, I had no idea what the difference was between interest rate and yield. There are all these little subtleties that you have to be in the club to know about."

Now with the new app, called The Book of Jargon, all it takes is a few taps on a screen to get the information quickly.

The precursor to the digital glossary was a popular print publication of the same name that Latham first produced in the fall of 2008. It was distributed to both lawyers and clients. "I sent about 25 copies to my friends at the major Wall Street law firms and I was shocked at how many of them called me back and said, 'Can you send 50 more?'" says Davenport. Fellow capital markets cochair Alexander Cohen, a former senior official at the SEC, pointed out to Davenport that Latham's summaries could be found on the desks of many agency staffers.

Given the response to the book, Davenport hopes to have copies on the desks of every junior lawyer and banker in Manhattan. (In addition to the volume covering capital markets terms, Latham also publishes manuals covering project finance and outsourcing.) But the printing costs of such an undertaking were prohibitive. That's when the idea of an application arose--it would be far more cost-effective, and also much easier to deliver to a larger audience of lawyers and bankers.

Davenport and Cohen relied on members of the firm's information technology and business development teams in transferring the hard copy into a digital application. "I've got to give [them] the full credit for this one," Cohen says. "It certainly wasn't me and Kirk."

The business development team first looked into creating the application earlier this summer, says Kenneth Heaps, Latham's chief information officer. The tech development work was handled entirely in-house.

"A couple of our programmers, on their own time, decided they were going to prototype it," Heaps says. "And once you have the appropriate technology and developers, there's still a process you have to go through to become a certified app developer by Apple." Then there is the review process by Apple, to determine whether or not it will accept the application. "It actually took longer for them to approve us than it did for us to finish the app," Heaps adds. (The app's official release by Apple was August 9.)

So far, Davenport says the response to Latham's launch has been positive. "We're getting hits," he says. "I think we had one from Kazakhstan, which I was particularly excited about."

Plans already are in the works to build similar digital editions for the project finance and outsourcing manuals.

"It remains in our benefit to be the thought leaders," Davenport says. "We hope that when a young associate at Cravath is given a research project, he'll look to Latham to see whether it's been done before. That's the goal, and I do know that does sometimes happen."

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Fantastic idea and also the idea to make this available for free.

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