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Lawyers Need to Leverage Technology in 2018

In 2018, lawyers can visualise a solution to exceed their client’s expectations.

March 2018 was an important month. This was when the first intake of students for the University of Technology Sydney’s (UTS) “Legal Futures and Technology” major commenced their studies. This course is the first undergraduate legal major in legal technologies and legal futures taught in Australia.[1] It is reported that UTS is following in the footsteps of overseas universities, such as Stanford University, that offer legal technology degrees.[2]

There is a good reason for universities to offer similar courses. The legal landscape today is very different from the one we knew just a few years ago. Today, clients expect their lawyers to leverage technology to provide advice in the most cost effective and time efficient ways. To meet this expectation, many lawyers have turned to legal technologies, including data visualisation. The concept of visualisation is not new. Did you know that Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, used what we would today recognise as a pie chart to illustrate the fate of hospitalised soldiers in 1858?[3] This led to improvements to hospital hygiene which continue to benefit us today.

In the legal world, visualisation enables lawyers to see the concepts in not only a more interesting but also a more useful manner. For example, one area where visualisation is having an enormous impact is in interpretation of commercial information in search results from the like of the ASIC registers, the National Personal Insolvency Index, and the Personal Property Securities Register. 

Consider this example. Lawyers always need to quickly extract relevant content from many searches from these and other registers, then use that information to advise a client, prepare transaction documents or draft a legal opinion. When each search generates a few pages of linear information in the form of PDF reports, and each matter requires a few searches, the result is pages and pages of information. This information then needs to be sifted through to find details that are relevant. With the help of visualisation technology, lawyers can abandon archaic traditional practices and drive better engagement by presenting their advice (at least in part) in a visual format. Visualisation technology can help lawyers speed up the processes without compromising on the quality of their advice. 

Now, let us take a look at this from the client’s perspective. A good lawyer needs to know the law and apply the law to the client’s matter. To be a great lawyer, it is important to also be a communicator. In a recent white paper by LexisNexis, leading practitioners discussed visualisation as an aid to clients understanding transaction structures, documents and parties’ responsibilities. It is clear that “clients want to be given clear information”, and “many of them like graphics when these are well presented and fairly show the right information”.[4]  

What does this all mean? The correct application of legal technology such as visualisation translates to cost effectiveness and time efficiency, and this benefits the client (for example, by getting better and faster advice) as well as the law firm (for example, for meeting, or better still, exceeding, the client’s expectations).  

A practical tip[5] for lawyers when sourcing such a technology solution – while a critical prerequisite here is rapid access to accurate information that is presented in an easy to understand format, do not forget that security of information is undeniably important. Law firms must safeguard information, including commercial information, whether that is presented visually or not. To satisfy their own and their clients’ security demands, when law firms select a legal technology service provider, it is preferable to pick one who hosts the platform being used in Australia and the data not be replicated overseas without consent. The host should also meet strict privacy legislation obligations, including any disclosure of any personal information. If cloud based storage is used, it would be wise to know just how secure it is: that is, how the information is stored and how it is accessed, particularly where multiple parties are concerned.  

SAI Global have recently launched an all-new and improved Encompass with even more functions to save you time and avoid risk when conducting searches. Why not watch a quick video on how Encompass can help you here?

[1] UTS Faculty of Law. 2017. New Legal Futures and Technology Major. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.uts.edu.au/future-students/law/course-experience/new-legal-futures-and-technology-major. [Accessed 27 February 2018].

[2] Lawyers Weekly. 2017. UTS launches legal tech degree in Australian first. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/careers/21479-uts-launches-legal-tech-degree-in-australian-first. [Accessed 26 February 2018].

[3] Willis Towers Watson. 2013. Data Visualisation: Essential in Understanding Risk. [ONLINE] Available at: https://blog.willis.com/2013/11/data-visualisation-essential-in-understanding-risk/. [Accessed 26 February 2018].

[4] LexisNexis. 2017. Lawyers and Robots? Conversations Around the Future of the Legal Industry. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.lexisnexis.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/187644/Lawyers_and_Robots_Whitepaper.pdf. [Accessed 26 February 2018].

[5] Balk, B, 2015. Critical prerequisites of legal search technology for banking and finance lawyers. LexisNexis Australian Banking & Finance Law Bulletin [Online]. Volume 31 No 6 (July 2015), 118-120. Available at: https://www.lexisnexis.com.au/en/insights-and-analysis/practice-intelligence/2015/05july2015-critical-prerequisites-of-legal-search-technology-for-banking-and-finance-lawyers. [Accessed 27 February 2018].