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Digital disruption and its impact on legal research
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Digital disruption and its impact on legal research

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How new technology is changing the way lawyers conduct research and collaborate within their firm

WITH THE entry of a new generation of digital-native lawyers into the workforce and pressures on law firms, in-house counsel and the justice system to become more streamlined and cost-efficient, technology has become integral to work practices. A significant part of this focus has been on administrative and back-end tasks, streamlining or outsourcing repetitive tasks to increase productivity and deliver legal services more efficiently.

But is this at the cost of the quality of work and research they are producing? Legal research is being transformed with online search engines influencing user experience. With the digital-native lawyers expecting their knowledge management tools to work in much the same way as Google and Facebook interfaces do, and with graduate tech-savvy lawyers starting to outgrow the generation of traditional research practices, research relevancy and search algorithms need to be updated and optimised for new search practices.

The ease in accessing information also brings increased expectations in its presentation and delivery. When relying on open search sources, rather than trusted publishers, this creates a problem and mismatch of information.

At a recent LexisNexis roundtable exploring ‘whether research tools are evolving with the changing needs and expectations of the legal profession’, the participants all agreed that lawyers are utilising Google more for research but quite often at the expense of results, perhaps presenting incorrect or less thorough research that typically results in the research request ending up with the knowledge manager or librarian to pursue through more traditional research methods.

Roundtable participants agreed that in many cases, utilising tools like Google was costing the business time and money on incomplete or inaccurate results.

All participants observed that legal research was a personalised process. The point was made that while some lawyers are sophisticated online researchers with a sound understanding of information literacy principles, there are others who are desperate to find an answer and skip essential legal research steps for convenience.

They felt that rather than using Google as a stand-alone platform, or forcing practitioners to only use company developed and approved research tools, it is a matter of taking those accustomed principles, search practices, and mixing it with an education of information literacy principles.

Since the LexisNexis technology journey started to address the changing research needs of users, there have been consistent and clear themes in research and user testing, such as the need for ‘natural language’ searching to support the ‘Boolean challenged’ researchers and the expectation of finding the right results in the first 10 search hits (search relevancy).

While Google significantly affected researcher’s expectation of the search experience, the rapid development of social and online media is influencing both the approach to research and expectations for sharing/collaboration on legal information

This is where technology companies such as LexisNexis can help: by continuously working with customers, tools that mimic a more simplified and filtered search are developed, creating research platforms that use natural language while ensuring research is thorough and equipping the firms with efficiency and collaboration tools.

Lexis Advance, the new legal research platform from LexisNexis launched in Australia last year, is the direct response to the growing trends towards new ways to conduct legal research and collaborate within the firm.

For more industry insight and perspectives on digital disruption in the legal industry, you can download the full white paper from the News and Resources section of Lexis Advance website: www.lexisnexis.com.au/lexisadvance

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