Visualization – The Next Evolution in Legal Search
Digitization – The First Evolution

It had to happen! The world of online searching has changed dramatically since I entered the industry back in 1989. When I started, very little searching information was available online. The NSW Titles office had only computerized 30% of their Titles records, and they were well ahead of the other State Titles Offices. Company and business information was either held by the Corporate Affairs office or the Business Affairs office. Their records were held on microfiche, and if a solicitor wanted information pertaining to a company or business, then a clerk or legal agent was sent to the relevant office to search the microfiche and print the information required. Needless to say, obtaining searches at that time was a time consuming and costly process.

The formation of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Australia’s corporate regulator, started to simplify research by creating a central search register – a single source of digitized corporate information fully available online for the first time.

However, the introduction of the Personal Property Securities Act 2009 (Cth) (PPSA) in 2012, introduced a national regime dealing with the registration of security interests over personal property in Australia which replaced many existing schemes (including security interests recorded on 23 Commonwealth, state, and territory registers). The Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR), was created and migrated 4.7 million security interests from the 23 Commonwealth registers before commencement. During this process, ASIC was required to transfer all company charges information to the PPSR.

Before this change, a solicitor could search ASIC and obtain a company extract, along with a charges extract relatively easily from that one source. Now, solicitors are required to search ASIC for company details and then also search the PPSR for records of company charges.

As legal searching and information becomes increasingly more complex, simplifying the process of interpreting, analyzing, and clearly articulating the relevant information to clients from multiple sources has become time consuming and challenging for legal firms.

Driven to improve the nature of research for our clients, whether law firms, in-house counsel, barristers, or conveyancers, at InfoTrack we focus on continually innovating our search system and delivery of results.

Visualization – The Next Evolution

It has become apparent from listening to our clients and understanding their needs that visualization is the next step in the evolution of search. As we know, wrapping our brains around incredible masses of commercial data is not only daunting, it is labor and time intensive. Visualization takes a lot of the grief out of that process. It enables users of legal searching tools to analyze complex company and people structures quickly and efficiently. In turn, they can present results and findings to clients in a far more comprehensive manner, while at the same time meeting risk and compliance obligations.

The legal industry with its multitude of players, now more than ever needs more sophisticated searching, and visualization satisfies that need. It reduces human error, improves workflow and operational efficiencies, clearly highlights relationships, and provides consistency across a firm or organization. In short, it takes client service to a new level, and for smaller firms it puts them on a more level playing field with their larger competitors.

Using Visualization

Visualizing searches has day-to-day applications for solicitors in all areas of law. For matters relating to family law, commercial, mergers and acquisitions, insolvency, due diligence, and conflict resolution, visualizing searching will save time and money for practitioners while improving client service.

However, is it not just lawyers who can benefit from the visualization of day-to-day searching. Accountants, insolvency practitioners, bankers, investigators, corporate, and government departments, among others, can benefit from the power of visualizing searches. Making fast and accurate decisions around a broad range of complex matters such as commercial, merger and acquisitions, insolvency, and lending, is only getting easier.

Interestingly, David Houlihan, principal analyst at Blue Hill Research in the United States, recently asked the question “who will disrupt legal research?” Among these four listed trends, I was particularly interested in his thoughts on visualization.

As Market Disruptor

In his blog, David maps out the potential benefits of visualization in the legal research context, suggesting solutions are often used to map the development of doctrine or the relationships between authorities, with an end goal of providing faster, more meaningful search.

Visualization can transform the process of understanding the results turned up in legal research. Pages upon pages of results present a daunting task for the human mind as we are effectively forced to sift through hundreds, if not thousands, of relevant cases and opinions. Visualizing these outputs through relationship mapping lets us quickly understand the links between cases. This represents an enormous advantage over the alternative of skimming through individual cases in an attempt to understand their relevance.

Understanding what is and isn’t relevant is a challenging task to say the least, as is determining the relationships between pieces of information and the custodians responsible. This too is a challenge which visualization tools are particularly adept at solving.

If those are examples of visualization that is used to support data navigation, other legal technology vendors have focused on applying visualization for actionable insight.

David Houlihan says, for stakeholders involved in choosing the right legal technology solution, a strong visualization element represents a compelling value proposition. Data visualization allows for relationships between data to be highlighted in a way that is more readily discernible to the human eye. In doing so, it allows for gains in both efficiency and potentially improving existing strategies. In the world of law, where small details can have gigantic impacts, incorporating visualization capabilities seems like the logical progression of innovation.

The old adage that a ‘picture is worth a thousand words’ could never be more true when it comes to the digital age. But that is only the beginning of the visualization of data journey.

What's Next?

Harvard Business Review recently published an article by Sangeet Paul Choudary on “The Rise of Social Graphs for Businesses” which explores the next step in the evolution of the social graph that is now well understood in social media networks. This is the emergence of the ‘commercial graph’ which can depict relationships between businesses, based on their interactions as they are captured digitally. Commercial graphs will help businesses – including law firms – manage their own partner relationships better. They will also help those who are third parties to those ecosystems understand them and discover ways to make targeted offers to those within them. The graphs visually display three things: the companies in an ecosystem, the relationships among them, and the reputations they have earned through their mutual dealings.

As Mr. Choudary points out “in a world where commerce flows on networks, and business people increasingly devise strategies with an eye to their broader ecosystems, the rise of commercial graphs will be rapid.” These commercial graphs will create a layer of intelligence for efficient market interactions and healthy business relationships that will be invaluable in achieving not only greater efficiencies in the legal profession but also in creating new business development opportunities.

The reality is data creates data; particularly so in the legal profession. The evolution of increasingly sophisticated search tools has created smaller needles for bigger haystacks, making the visualization of these tools the way of the future for many, including the legal and broader professional services sectors.

Info Track

InfoTrack is a market leading information broker providing a fast and easy solution for all your Property, Corporate and Personal searching and affiliated services. With over 13 years' experience servicing the legal and conveyancing industry, currently serving 4000 law firms each month, we are confident we can help your practice work more productivity. Click here for more information.

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