Why Wilson Sonsini Went Outside Legal for Help Automating IPO Disclosures
September 21, 2021
First published on Law.com, by Dan Packel.
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is broadening its commitment to digitizing legal services with a new application, developed with software as a service company Workiva Inc. (NYSE:WK), that helps automate the registration statement required for initial public offerings.
The firm, which regularly advises U.S. technology companies on IPOs, is tackling the document known as SEC Form S-1 with an app it’s calling WS-1. Wilson Sonsini turned to Workiva because of the company’s existing expertise in transforming the IPO process and clients’ familiarity with its work and brand.
“Workiva is one of the companies out there that was truly focused on digitalizing the disclosure process,” said Wilson Sonsini chief innovation officer David Wang. “They had a platform, but no legal-specific content per se.”
According to the firm, drafting a registration statement has historically taken more than 950 hours.
“Going public is a hugely important step in a company’s life cycle and it’s also one that people react to with a little bit of fear and trepidation,” Wilson Sonsini capital markets head Michael Nordtvedt said. “It’s a really good tool to take out a lot of time that would otherwise be spent on lower-value parts of the process. This allows people to tell the parts of the story that will resonate most with investors and give them more time to focus on their real day-to-day job.”
Wilson Sonsini has previously made a number of steps into the digital world. Earlier this year, it launched Neuron, its own proprietary software platform to automate the typical legal processes along a startup’s progression. And its own technology subsidiary, Sixfifty, sells automated tools addressing areas of the law such as privacy and return to work.
“We have this whole range of buy, partner, invest, build,” Wang said of the firm’s diversity of approaches. “There’s way too much to do in the legal ecosystem to do everything ourselves.”
Wang explained that while Sixfifty focuses on selling products, there’s no way the firm could sell a client on S-1, as it is impossible to separate the creation of a registration statement from the wider service of getting clients through the IPO process.
“That’s why it made much more sense to partner with a market-leading collaborator,” he said.
Both Wang and Nordtvedt believe there are further opportunities for automation, both for IPO work and for the firm’s broader suite of offerings.
“We are an end-to-end full-service firm,” Wang said. “For every single piece of our service there’s some digital ecosystem we’re connected to.”