Giving law a digital edge

Advanced legal research tools are reducing lawyer workload & helping streamline legal processes

Giving law a digital edge - CIO&Leader

When a lay person thinks about lawyers, the image that comes to their mind is of a black coat arguing his case vociferously in a court of law. However, argument or making a case in front of a judge is just a fraction of a lawyer’s job. What lies behind that one appearance in court is a humongous amount of research, analysis, fact-finding and sifting piles of case histories to find precedents that resonate with his/her argument. Legal research is an indispensable part of lawyers’ jobs and is fundamentally important to their success. Not just practicing lawyers, research is the central tenet of the job of consultants as well. Understandably, conducting impeccable research is the most time-consuming component of legal processes. Often, newspaper reports tell us the story of judges lambasting counsels for preparing half-baked cases. Most such instances of ill-prepared lawyers have their origins in ineffective research.

Inefficient research is a drag on legal processes

Not only does inefficient research eat up into valuable time, it also escalates the costs. When research is largely manual or based on inefficient digital tools or databases, it also impacts profitability of law firms. In a Survey on ‘Adapting to the Changing Legal Landscape’ conducted across 163 law firms in Australia and New Zealand in 2016, respondents were asked about what were the key process challenges at their firm. While 41% said manual processes, another 37% cited inefficient processes as major challenges. Similarly, 28% also cited outdated and old-fashioned processes as a challenge. A highly competitive legal space and increased pressure on law researchers has in recent years generated a greater demand for better legal tech solutions to make research more efficient and smoother. Streamlining legal research through efficient technology backed solutions is therefore a critical need cut across the legal spectrum. With research work consuming a lot of time and energy of lawyers, new age digital technology is now focusing on simplifying legal research and making it easier and more effective using advances ushered in by artificial intelligence and machine learning tools.

Giving legal research a digital reboot

In a survey conducted among attorneys in the US by The Research Intelligence Group, law firm associates said they spent nearly a third of their working hours conducting legal research, or about 15 hours per week on average. Much of this research was said to be conducted online using a variety of sources. Indian researchers also spend considerable amounts of time in research. While digitization has served to make a large amount of court documents and case histories available online, there is still much scope of encouraging use of advanced AI based search engines that dramatically improve efficiency of research and improve productivity.

Advanced legal research tools cutting research time and cost

Among the most basic requirements while conducting legal research are availability of digitized database, finding the leading cases governing the issues in question, thoroughly studying the statues and regulations governing the subject and studying commentaries or interpretations of those laws in previous judgments. Since the advent of computer technology, lawyers and other legal researchers have increasingly turned to digitize the core areas of their work. However, searching digital databases for relevant inputs, case histories and case laws remains a major challenge as traditional search engines do not have the capacity to understand wider legal requirements based on keywords.

Advanced AI-based legal research tools are fast emerging as the panacea for this problem and helping researchers reduce save workload and save precious time and costs by delivering more relevant search results based on keywords. A study conducted by the attorneys of the US National Legal Research Group found that switching to an AI backed solution saved an average lawyer 132-210 hours of legal research per year. AI based legal search engines help lawyers find any case by simply typing the case citation, party name, judge name or anything as free text which is part of the case to get favorable results.

Another critical ingredient to any case research is case law which is the sum total of all the past legal decisions given out by courts based on the interpretation of existing laws and regulations. Knowledge of case law is essential as it contains legal precedents upon which lawyers can build their case. Nonetheless, getting to this information can seem like an arduous and time-consuming task especially when the data they are referring to is unstructured and complex. Utilization of machine learning in legal search engines allows users to get Issues, facts, decisions, reasoning’s, arguments as well as case findings pertaining to their case. It also enables the user to take specific portions of judgments which they want to specifically analyze and study. 

Visual Depictions and Infographics to boost readiness

It is very well known that visuals leave an everlasting impression on the human mind when it comes to learning and memorizing as they are easier to recall and associate with when one has to summon the information at will or as in the case of lawyers during trial.. Data analysis of cases is easier with visuals as they present statistics in pictorial as well as graphical form. The use of histograms, pie charts as well as tables organizes the information of overruled, distinguished, followed and relied upon case laws in relevant figures that are easy to refer to and understand. 

The author is Founder, LegitQuest


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