Building a current awareness solution that suits the legal industry

This blog takes a closer look at the three fundamental considerations that law firms should make when looking to create a highly effective current awareness solution including; sources, silos, and security.


Lawyers need to be able to give their clients the very best advice. And to do this, they rely upon a plethora of information sources from legal developments, legislative changes, and industry-specific news. In addition, lawyers don’t just need to keep informed about what’s going on, they need to analyze the data in order to understand how it may impact their sector, firms, and clients. Effective current awareness means that law firms are able to harness information in order to keep both themselves and their clients ahead of the curve.

Becoming data-driven has been on the agenda of most organizations for a while now and the role of technology in this is frequently emphasized. While it has been suggested that there has been resistance in adopting new technology by the legal sector, a recent report from Deloitte clearly acknowledges the critical role technology can play in transforming legal practices.

A recent whitepaper from Thomson Reuters identifies some of the most common bottlenecks attributed to legal current awareness as:

  • The need to avoid duplicating efforts
  • A lack of consistency between updates produced by and for different practice areas and audiences
  • Labor-intensive and repetitive processes to produce multiple updates 
  • Email/information overload

In this blog, we’ve taken a closer look at the three fundamental considerations that law firms should make when looking to create a highly effective current awareness solution including; sources, silos, and security (because who doesn’t like alliteration).

Sources

The content sources that are relied upon for the current awareness that is required across the legal profession, primarily come in three distinctions; open-source (example), premium (LexisNexis), and internal (client information, filings, legal documentation, etc). Integrating these sources into your information solution is a critical step when looking to maximize the efficiency and value of your tool. Each of these sources comes with its own challenges however:

Premium sources

When you look at integrating multiple premium sources there are two critical elements that you need to consider. Firstly, different premium providers will utilize different types of feeds such as RSS, API and FTP, as well as different information formats such as XML, HTML and email. The disparate information sources therefore need to be normalized into a standardized format so that they can be accessed from one place, and easily used across multiple applications. These information feeds then need to be monitored consistently to ensure that any changes or issues are handled effectively to ensure information flow and retrieval. 

The second consideration is the type of access you have as part of your content license as this can affect the accessibility for each individual user. For example, having programmatic access typically means that integrating your information via an API and ensuring all of your end users can access the full information document is achievable. Seat based licensing on the other hand, may restrict some users from being able to read the full source. 

Internal sources

The legal industry is one that is trailing workplace digitization norms. Whereas most industries can access their information digitally, the legal industry still relies heavily on physical documentation and manual processing. Moving these internal resources to a digital platform has been acknowledged by The Law Society as a priority for the industry as a whole, but provides a significant challenge for integrating your internal information into a digital current awareness platform.

Secondly, the nature and sensitivity of the information being processed by law firms can pose a challenge. While it’s essential to have this available across a current awareness delivery, it is often not appropriate to be accessible to all users. To combat this your current awareness solution needs to have accurate access management controls to ensure information is made available to those (and only those) for whom it is intended. 

Open sources

The nature of open-source content results in a lot of irrelevant or inaccurate information noise. Integrating this into your current awareness solution, while worthwhile and often necessary to get a complete picture, can result in a lot of superfluous information. To ensure that your current awareness solution offers you both timely and accurate insights requires a combination of AI technology – sifting through the vast quantities of information, and human expertise – drawing out the insights and summarizing the true meaning of that information.

Silos

The challenge of data silos is so problematic that we dedicated a whole blog to them here. In short, data that is accessible by one department but isolated from the rest of that organization can lead to duplicated work, missed opportunities, and underused resources. This is compounded by the lack of central responsibility in providing current awareness which can result in a massive expense for an organization. Unfortunately, legal firms are not exempt.

Similarly, silos often exist because of the type of content that legal firms rely on. We alluded to it above but a problem that stems from the nature and antiquity of legal information and systems means physical silos (think filing cabinets) are as prevalent in law firms as their digital successors. 

Ironically, the same solution to overcoming this barrier, i.e centralizing your knowledge workflows, is also what you are trying to achieve when building a long term current awareness solution. To be able to do this, you need to get a firm grasp of the information sources that exist across the entire organization. We’ve found that a company-wide content audit produces surprising results; often highlighting lost opportunities, underused resources, and duplicated work.

Security

In a sector that handles a huge volume of confidential data, it’s unsurprising that the thought of digitizing documents and not having them locked away is a daunting one. In fact, a recent study by PWC found that 82% of law firms express concerns relating to cybersecurity. This is why, when you’re looking to build the foundations of your awareness solution, it makes sense to work closely with your IT teams, or to select a vendor who has extensive IT and security experience and is able to cater for any specific security requirements you have; whether that be who can have access to a specific document or where your awareness solution is deployed. For more on the benefits of different deployment options, read here.


Conclusion

Creating the right solution starts with getting the basics right. It is understanding the information you have, the information you need, and finding a way to centralize these in a solution that suits your end-users. For law firms who may be trailing other industries in their transformations to truly digital infrastructures, the climb is steeper but not insurmountable, and moreover, becoming increasingly critical to ensure lawyers can ascertain and meet the needs of their clients. 

The right solution provides an increased ROI on the content across your organization, ensures a reduction in the time taken to find the right insights, and it is deployed in an environment of your choice to satisfy all of your security needs. But most importantly, it is a critical factor of success. Investing in a solution that will provide current awareness that suits your firm now and into the future should become (if it isn’t already) a priority.