Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Future of Law Again: #LexisNexis

LexisNexis is the in the business of tracking and working with the legal market because it recognises the huge potential for profit. Although lawyers still need primary material ‘the law’, publishers see the benefits of not only adding value to this raw material, but also developing efficiency driving tools. These rough notes came out of a Product Adoption Advisory Board meeting, and nothing here identifies anyone who came along.

The vision that LexisNexis has for the future of law is, for many places, already here. Lawyers can work flexibly with a virtual presence anywhere in the world, are able to communicate with clients over instant messaging services and collaborate with colleagues using the cloud. As they noted today, all legal requirements regarding confidentiality, data protection, and regulated industries are appropriately observed.

Highly Curated to Highly Collaborative

Lawyers are comfortable with highly curated document based knowledge because that is what they know and it works well. They have collections of ‘best practice’, tried and tested precedent and knowhow banks, are used to current awareness in a particular way. They have training sessions using webinars, round table discussions. All of this knowledge is 'safe', and within the context what lawyers do, it serves them well.

When something has worked so well for so long, it is difficult to convince lawyers and finance teams that there is an alternative way of working. Web 2.0 generated content has changed the way that LexisNexis has been thinking about knowledge delivery. They class blogs, wikis, forums, and self-publishing as 'curated with permission'. We have seen the effect of blogs on the dissemination of legal knowledge and it is profound. We don’t have to wait for articles in traditional journals, because commentary is now found on highly regarded blogs.

The future was described as 'slippery and collaborative'. The overwhelming sense is that annotations will be shared across teams, with communities enriching the content through online editing. They suggest that the legal work will become project managed with highly interactive checklists and flowcharts to assist the process.

Working Collaboratively

Although big data is in the news at the moment, LexisNexis is focusing on 'small additions'. They used as an example of a collaborative platform. A collection of editors can add annotations to documents and add value to raw materials. As yet, I don’t see lawyers trusting anyone other than known, qualified, and authenticated authors with appropriate permissions to amend. However many firms will already have a service like this in house – and indeed, accessible to clients.

LexisNexis are working on the problem of concurrent editing, and cite Microsoft 360 as a browser based office suite. Included in this is internal instant messaging, making communication with other editors possible. Some firms may find that, although sharing and editing is possible, the functionality is reduced. If you are producing long complicated documents, spreadsheets etc, this could be a problem.

Yammer has been around for some time and when used properly, it can be an effective way of spreading information around firms. More interactive than a blog, it is an internal social network where notes, ideas and Q&A can be exchanged. Valuable knowledge can then be captured and added to internal knowhow.

But no one wants to share?

The problem of hoarders and unwillingness to share knowhow continues to be a problem but LexisNexis suggest that the younger generation are more accustomed to the idea. They are used to collaborative working, via Evernote, Google Docs and so on. The speaker added, rather worryingly, that young people aren’t used to working with longer documents, and have never used Microsoft Office. In many places this lack would be seen as an urgent training issue.

Concluding Points

Many of the ideas that LexisNexis talked about are issues for the future. However some firms are more innovative than others and are thinking along the same lines as LexisNexis. Early adopters are talking with their clients and finding out what would work for them; some industries are demanding more open ways of working, however some are having to tighten their security because of regulators. It’s not going to work in all cases.

LexisNexis stressed the importance of being organised and trying things out. When you are used to certain interface in your personal life, there may be benefits in having that commonality over work systems. As the blackberry generation become accustomed to Instant Messaging apps on their smart phones, Whatsapp, Skype, FaceTime, etc, this may drive demand for IM from the desktop and instigate a new way of speaking with clients.  

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