Legal

A Dynamic and Intuitive Legal Research Experience in a Automobile
A Dynamic and Intuitive Legal Research Experience in a Automobile 1021 643 Raymond Blijd
 Location: A5 en route to Wolters Kluwer Corporate Office.

Driver: summary!
Car voice: you have a 58 unread messages and 18 alerts.
Driver: please tag and provide urgency?
Car voice: tagging complete and the most urgent are 4 messages from your client “LegalComplex” which match with 2 alerts. Is this urgency correct?
Driver: yes. Please proceed with research?
Car voice: research indicates that 2 briefs and 1 IntelliConnect document match messages tagged “LegalComplex” and “Urgent”, would you like these to be linked?
Driver: no, just save to client folder and schedule in calendar…

Ok, I may have gone off the deep end here but bear with me. I’m in no way proposing to try this in your own car. The ‘car’ is a metaphor which personifies an ultimate goal: to build a research system that needs as little physical interaction as possible e.g. no typing or clicking. While voice recognition still seems tricky at times, Apple’s Siri comes eerily close to its ability to decipher the human voice. The key, in my opinion, lies in the understanding and relaying general tasks such as: calculation go to Wolfram Alpha and restaurants go to Yelp.

Loup.002

Therein lies the opportunity. With domain-specific information in hand, vertical search engines can work better at providing immediate answers whereas universal search just provides lots of hits. As previously discussed, filtering and narrowing down sources for us to search through is essential for our professional market.

In the example above, the alerts (based on the personal agents) combined with customers messages may provide a sort of ranking by urgency not much different than creating rules in Outlook. The messages can be grouped similar to Gmail priority inbox and then matched with previous search alerts and predefined tags.

Now a client has sent me a couple of questions on a certain topic which coincides with news alerts on that same topic. Based on client history and configured tags, the system can suggest a ‘urgency’ of the matter. Subsequent search of personal and proprietary documents provide a most likely match for the information you may need to answer the questions. But the system lets me be the judge of that.

Here’s how it might look like in a 2012 Mercedes-Benz:

Here’s my dream…

Legal Research On Your Television Screen
Legal Research On Your Television Screen 1024 586 Raymond Blijd
A quiet Sunday morning, I’m channel surfing on my big screen when I come across an enticing teaser on the Wolters Kluwer Channel. I carrousel through the Health and Tax panels and select Legal. I start reading the news articles and a particular phrase intrigues me. I spread my arms to zoom in and make a left to right swiping gesture in the air to select it…

Dominator

Now this is not the opening to my upcoming Sci-Fi drama but rather an imminent reality. At the end of 2011, there were 82 million connected TVs in homes worldwide according to research group Informa. By 2016 it forecasts that number will have ballooned to 892 million. I also predict Smart TV’s will be into corporate offices quicker than you can spell: iPad. At Wolters Kluwer’s HQ in Alphen a/d Rijn, Netherlands, you are greeted by the latest news displayed on a large screen in the lobby. These are scattered around the building and in board rooms. The fact is, the TV screen still dominates and it will continue to do so by convergence with the web.

tv2

Domesticated

Actually, my first web-like experience coming to Europe was ‘surfing’ TeleText pages on my TV. I still use it occasionally for looking up flight status from my comfortable couch at home. And it’s not just flight status lookups but also legal research that is being domesticated. While doing year stats analysis on research portals, I discovered that engagement peaks during weekends with hours instead of minutes spent on the site. Imagine you could utilize the biggest screen (TV) in your home for research. It’s the same argument why you would use your smallest screen (Smartphone) for quick lookups.

Dipping toes

Natural interfaces such as the touch on Apple’s mobile devices or motion on Microsoft Kinect are slowly replacing mouse and keyboard. I wouldn’t go as far as using my eyes to control the screen but I think it isn’t farfetched that a minority report style of an interface will enter our television sets. And some in legal technology have already been wondering when it will appear for legal research. Traditional print publishers are already dipping their toes on Apple TV, Google TV or Roku.

In the end, the trick is not looking objectively at what’s happening now but intuitively at what will happen. More after the break…

Concept Zepp: Solving Personal, Research, and Social
Concept Zepp: Solving Personal, Research, and Social 960 540 Raymond Blijd
“The next big thing needs to be a proactive approach to knowing where data lives and what it means. It needs to include tools to keep data organized and secured regardless of location.” I lifted this quote from 3 Geeks and a Law Blog because it sums up part of Zepp, a concept that I have been thinking about for the past few months.

The Challenges
In some of my previous posts (the LegalComplex Library and it’s precursor post) I looked at the analysis of the current and future environment of knowledge workers. The challenge which many knowledge professional face is that they have a multi-verse of applications and solutions to do research tasks in sequence and within one workflow.

Example: How can one capture web content, annotate, save, organize it for easy retrieval, and share it while preserving context and within this process also be rewarded with a pleasant experience and the ability to showcase your work and expertise? This would ultimately benefit the user through recognition and perhaps more profitable assignments.

The Workflows
Let’s run through this: You’ve discovered an important argument for a copyright case on the web while browsing. You now want to save, annotate, and share it. A browser’s core function is singular in the sense that its main focus is rendering web content. The save, annotate, and share parts are just add-ons.

So one will have to just copy and paste the content and hyperlink (! must not forget) to a word processor. Depending on your tool of choice, you will either have a canon or water pistol in your hands to do the basic saving and annotating. You head over to your email client, hunt down your work via the ‘attach file’ dialog box and send it. It’s now gone and only you and your recipients know what has transpired.

The Solutions
So far we ran through 3 applications (Browser, Word, Email) and I haven’t counted the retrieval part yet. Depending on your set-up you are faced with having these 3 add-on features (Browser History, File Search or Email Search) to do the retention/retrieval or have a fourth application to tie it together.

Some tools might even add a layer of knowledge management but this is most often an afterthought. You could use something like Apple’s Reading List, however, you would still be faced with figuring out the initial integration with your other solutions.

The Social
Most of these applications will not have the goal to help you promote, showcase or profile your work. As indicated in this post on The Next Web (“In Social Media: Doctors, Lawyers, and Financiers, oh my!), ’chances are, when you think “open,” “social,” and “sharing,” your doctor, lawyer, and financial person are probably not at the top of your list…But doctors, lawyers, and financiers are people too.

The above link and this article delve into a paradigm of these heavy regulated industries and why being social is so difficult because of compliance or policy. On our own Solutions, Blog Cathy Betz talked about it here and here for the Drug Industry and Leanne Summers also made a passionate plea for sharing with colleagues.

The sheer number of users on Facebook (700+ mln), Twitter (300+mln) and Google+ , reportedly the fastest growing in history, make the case: it isn’t about traffic, searches, or page views anymore, it’s about users and sharing.

“Social Business” is not about technology, or about “corporate culture.” It is a sociopolitical historical shift that is bigger, broader and much more fascinating.” (Social Business Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does, Neither Does Enterprise 2.0)

“Zepp it”
To sum it up, the core activities to be tied together and simplified are:

  1. Discover (Search, Read, Browse)
  2. Organize (Save, Annotate, Group)
  3. Share
  4. Profile

Copy/pasting, multitasking and app switching has become so ingrained in our daily workflows that we have grown accustomed to it. We tend to forget the frustration and tediousness until we have to do it on a 3.5-inch screen with no keyboard.

So Zepp is first and foremost an acknowledgment that these four essential research activities for any knowledge professional can and must be simplified and…pleasant. The video below demonstrates how Zepp would look like…plus a sneak peek at what’s next, Enjoy!

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The Dogs of Legal Search: Facts vs Concepts
The Dogs of Legal Search: Facts vs Concepts 1024 640 Raymond Blijd
Legal research has passed the crossroads of print or digital and is heading for the next: facts or concepts. But are search engines getting too “easy” to use? Is the “dumbing down” of legal search engines a real threat to the quality of legal research?

Bloodhounds
As promised in a comment on a previous post, I would delve into the dilemma of simplifying of legal search engines. The question was raised again on the 3 Geeks and a Law Blog , which led me to some very intriguing insights presented in Roberta Shaffer’s key note at the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Vendor Colloquium.

Here are some of the many trends in legal research which she highlighted during her keynote:

  • More complexity in legal issues (opinions longer)
  • More diversity of jurisdiction
  • More cases of “ a first impression”
  • More data-driven evidence
  • More focused on fact as compared to previous centuries – concepts/legal theories
  • Legal academy is more multi-disciplinary as are practitioners (judges?) – bringing to the table different ways of finding, evaluating, exploiting, and employing knowledge
  • Education by “edit” and “isolation”

The reason I’ve picked these statements is that I think they are key in the evolution of legal search engines. Deep analytical research is like finding a crumb and following its trail through the forest. My suggestion is to clear the forest or use a bloodhound. The skill set we needed in the past are evolving but the tools we use aren’t. In short, a logical evolution of legal search engines is trying to distill more facts and less concepts; also because the latter is much harder to achieve by a ‘machine’.

How much will this case cost me?
The European Cartel Digest compiles and summarizes every decision of the European Commission and all case law of the courts on cartels. Unlike most legal print publications its construct is similar to a database. This setup makes it especially suitable for extracting facts in a flexible manner and experimenting with alternate online displays. The ultimate goal is answering factual queries quicker by exposing facts such as: what are the amounts of damages awarded in particular cases? This concept video demonstrates how such a question might get answered faster:

The essential question on everybody’s mind will always be: what’s at stake? In this new age the margin for errors for professionals are far greater simply due to amounts of data available. Let’s not forget that an online legal search in the many repositories is only one way to get answers. But wouldn’t it be nice if it was our first stop for quick answers about the facts of the matter.

 

LegalComplex Library: Concept of a Modern Library
LegalComplex Library: Concept of a Modern Library 1024 458 Raymond Blijd
Awhile back I went on an adventure to uncover the “modern library.” A traditional library is a place the curious roam and discover bundles of meticulously crafted and curated information. Massive wooden bookshelves would instill a sense of awe and ignite a challenge to absorb all hidden wisdom. Then came the Internet and it became a dated notion to pick up a book. The library was effectively replaced by a search engine. LegalComplex Library is an attempt to rekindle this enchantment in a new era.

(Unique) Case

The starting point was looking at a typical ‘modern library’ that a knowledge professional would operate in and the tools they would use to solve a case. Most often they would use an internet connected PC accompanied by installed software to accomplish several tasks. Depending on the subject matter or phase in the research process, the professional would need to switch between several tasks and applications to accomplish their overall goal.

Unique_Case-2

You the Platform

In the above examples, most of the used tools would have been developed with a focus on a specific set of tasks. It required a certain level of skill and knowledge to effectively operate these tools. The reason is that most were not developed with personalization or customizing in mind but rather adding enough features to accommodate the majority of projected uses. In short: they were not built around you but rather the perception of a task you would ultimately be forced to adapt to. The video below is the first in a series and presents the framework and fundamentals to try and change this paradigm.

Time magazine announced in 2006 the person of the year: You. Now let us start building products and services that are suitable for this magnificent person.

Burning Filters and Popping Bubbles: The Personalization Paradox
Burning Filters and Popping Bubbles: The Personalization Paradox 834 472 Raymond Blijd
 In 2008 Clay Shirky coined the phrase “It’s not information overload. It filters failure.” In 2011 this was reversed by Nicolas Carr stating: “It’s not information overload. It filters success.” He also stated that we were, in fact, getting dumbed down by filters like Google. Eli Pariser at TED gave a presentation called Beware online “filter bubbles” which gave a warning of the dangers of filters and personalization. So are we going filter mad?

bubblesA question of perception

The reason for the filter upheaval is understandable from a certain perspective. So was book burning in its day. Filters have been around since there was information exchange of any sort. Eli Pariser made the case that in the last century we had filters called editors with build in ethics who decided to give us a wide spectrum of information. Algorithms – without ethics – are replacing editors in this century as our main filter. However, the problem is that algorithms for personalization will inevitably calculate your persona and provide you the information it can deduce you might want. This can be very confrontational. But that’s not much different from the previous century whereby the act of buying and reading a certain newspaper brand is highly ‘personal’ and would say a lot about who you are.

bubbles2The luxury of serendipity

In a world of consumer-targeted filters, do these also pose a “danger” for the business market? On the contrary, they are the core of the business proposition. The rise of information providers and publishers depended solely on finding the appropriate filters called sources, experts, authors, editors, etc . A lawyer arguing before the bench, a physician at the bedside, or an accountant before a filing deadline do not have the luxury of the accidental discovery of crucial information. They rely heavily on meticulously chosen filters to deliver in a clutch. And now they are requiring us to design better filters and not force them into haystacks to find a needle.

Information overload is a symptom best cured by filters that do not aggravate the problem or deceive the user.

bubbles3

Needles & Magnets: What’s wrong with legal research today?
Needles & Magnets: What’s wrong with legal research today? 1024 576 Raymond Blijd
An excellent piece by Mary Abraham at Above and Beyond KM questioned if Westlaw or Lexis are offering the right legal search solution. She states:

“It seems obvious that the current approach to legal research is fundamentally flawed. Lexis and Westlaw have created these enormous databases of case law that cannot be completely mastered unless you have world-class research skills.”

This prompted a response by Greg Lambert on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog to compliment her on daring to ask the essential question of “why are we doing it this way?” I’ll go a bit further and ask why are doing it all and what should we be doing instead?

A Needlestack
Both articles discuss the “needle in the haystack” approach of legal research tools and propose fixes. The solutions suggest pre-filtering or questioning the searchers’ motives before the search. But after the search, every nugget of retrieved information is a potential ‘needle’ so what is hay and what is a needle? Ultimately the end-user decides but it begs the question: why is there hay?

Publishers do not purposely produce products which nobody would value. That business model would not last. Publishers produce “needles” …lots of them. Research publishers produce content for extensive varieties of end-users and each with a different value depending on the time of access. Example: an attorney researching a contract written in the past in accordance with the law in effect at that time would not benefit getting the latest version of the law – they want the historical one. Whereas an attorney drafting a contract today would need the latest version.

Creating Powerful Magnets
In the future, I hope we won’t be creating more needle stacks. Hopefully, we would do better than a brute force keyword search. We would use more delicate filters and have a better understanding of the needs of the ‘real’ users. We should definitely have our own platform and running on our own data centers, maybe design our own chipsets and devices to better suit our users. Above all, we must design our own software to go along with the content and make it convenient and pleasant to work with. The business model will have to change from just selling needles to delivering magnets. Meaning, better ways for professionals to get information instead of just repackaging more information.

There is an advanced way to find a needle in a hay stack and that is by using a really powerful magnet to pull it out. These simple solutions gave rise to the Industrial Age yet seem strangely elusive in the Information Age.

When will we start exploring magnets instead of creating needles?

Did You Just Call Me a ‘Customer’?
Did You Just Call Me a ‘Customer’? 300 389 Raymond Blijd
In a business to business market (B2B), we often refer to ‘the Customer’ as the End-user which is not necessarily the case. Contrary to business to the consumer market (B2C) there isn’t always a direct relation between the purchaser and the End-user of a product in B2B. However, after recent very successful launches of consumer devices and services this differentiation has become distorted. So instead of focusing on the Customer, focus instead on the persons actually pushing the buttons.

Please, you may refer to me as ‘Patient’

In developing for enterprises I define 3 categories of ‘users’:

  1. End-user: the person who is actually working with a product on a daily basis;
  2. Experts: person who is considered by the enterprise as an expert in the field and is either the decision maker or influences the decision making;
  3. Customer: an entity (e.g. the enterprise ) which will ultimately foot the bill and is the main driver behind the purchase of a product.

Now all three types of users use a product in a different way but they are equally relevant. The End-user uses a product more directly. For the Expert the product would be more a means to an end. The Customer in this definition wants a Return On Investment (ROI).

All three users have legitimate uses for a product and must be considered when developing. However, when it is time to set priorities these three different uses might become a muddle.

Example: some business analytics tools come packed with shiny dashboards and gauges. The Customer would be pleased with exposing business critical information. The Experts is satisfied with the prospect of solving a business need. The End-user is – in this example: the person needed to input data in order for the analytics to work – livid with anger and frustration.

The causes may vary from no process in place to produce data to feed the tool, the tedious fashion for inputting or importing data or complex configurations to get information into the dashboard as required. In any case, being the End-users will feel more like a Patient, begging for a cure from a Doctor.

Traditionally, enterprise tools have put more empathize on the Expert and the Customer and who could blame them?

B2B legalcomplexWho’s this feature for?

For knowledge portal development these user roles are somewhat similar with one important distinction: the End-user has by far more power and influence.

For instance, in a legal market these roles would probably translate into the following types:

  1. End-user: Attorneys, Librarians;
  2. Experts: Knowledge Manager, Information Officer;
  3. Customer: Law Firm.

Hereby the End-user does the actual information retrieval (searching & browsing) on a daily basis. The Experts monitors the comprehensiveness, proficiency, and efficiency for the Customer who sees that as its ROI.

Now comes the hard part: Who do you focus on when developing knowledge tools or services? Especially when features request keep piling on and requirements keep coming in. A specific feature might benefit all three equally but that will not always the case. One must always strive to satisfy all three users but if deadline pressures mount (or common sense prevails) you’re likely being forced to choose.

For example, a feature, which is perceived to be crucial for End-users, might raise the cost of a product tremendously which in turn isn’t beneficiary to either Expert or Customer.

User Intimacy

Much to the chagrin of IT, Security and Compliance consumer devices and services e.g. iPhone, Google Docs, WordPress, and Dropbox have been making inroads into enterprises by way of End-users. These tools have in common that they are squarely aimed at them and not Customers. I will not venture and say that they have a really inmate relationship with their users but they do have succeeded in pleasing a lot of them. Enterprise tools have a spotty record in that regard and – in some cases- have been forced to make way for these competitors. A trend started by influential End-users that have been pleading their case for fewer restrictions and more convenience resulting in productivity. We’ve all received corporate emails signed “Send from my iPad” knowing full well that iOS is not supported in your enterprise.

It might not be easy spotting End-users gains as oppose to those for Expert or Customer, but betting on them will surely pay off in the End.

Pleasant Habits vs. Tedious Tasks
Pleasant Habits vs. Tedious Tasks 300 384 Raymond Blijd

Contextual Design to create solutions for customers is an excellent post on how to capture the essence of a particular task. But after you’ve turned your solution into the perfect filter, how do you turn it into a solution which gets users away from paper and onto your services?

Design-crop-300x384Design for Convenience
Forrester released a report outlining mobile trends for 2011. Among other trends, it signaled convenience as a focus for companies to invest in. One of the main reason the mobile market is growing exponentially is simply because – in some cases – mobile has become more convenient in use than a desktop. So how does someone design for convenience?

First, you envision the ultimate digital user experience. One in which the user perceives the service as a pleasant habit which they enjoy reusing contrary to a tedious task they are forced to repeat. Then you design the user interface to go along with this experience. Finally, you design the content and platform to fit the interface and experience.

For example, one can geotag content by jurisdictions to be displayed on a map. A user can then visualize different views of subject matter and distil various facts. For instance, they might predict the most likely outcome of a certain case per jurisdictions just by the size of pushpins or the color of a jurisdiction on a map. (See mapping lead generation:www.forcemapper.com ). It will also enable content to be location aware to the user, especially a mobile one, thus creating a new experience and possibly a pleasant habit.

The power of ‘Edit’
Creating a pleasant habit is also realizing that you are not the only one trying to do so. There already are lots of services out there aiming to do the same and your users have experienced some of them.

Moreover, old habits die hard so it is a challenge to entice users to switch to your newly created ‘habit.’ To make the switch easier is to ensure your service can be modified to better fit most users. Users must be able to customize and personalize your service and to easily join or cancel it.

This offers them a simple but powerful incentive called: choice.

Develop with an ‘edit’ button in mind for your user and present it prominently on your service, application, or site. Build API’s for developers and use emerging standards for your services. Let users know they have influence over whatever it is you’re providing for them.

As John Barker hinted in “Content & Software – an Eroding Distinction?”, software has a distinct quality that enables users to manipulate the output. The rise of user-generated content has proven that users crave more control and publishers should provide as much as possible.

Ultimately, publishers should strive to create a platform where a user has the freedom to use content to gain knowledge the traditional way but in a modern fashion.