Legal Research – Some thoughts

Most of the talk these days is about AI. Anyone who has experimented with Chat GPT for example will know that the outputs are truly amazing, although there are many concerns about currency and accuracy. Enhanced, integrated and paid versions of AI will continue to develop, however, to a point where there will be consequences for law practices in terms of what work they do and how they do it.

All of that shouldn’t be a concern for practices that are future thinking, client focused and adaptable. The legal publishers will also have to move quickly to ensure that their offerings continue to provide true value adds, with really practical implementation tools, like Workflows and Document automation capabilities.

But what about the foundations? For those without Law Librarians especially, there remain issues in the quality and consistency in the ways legal research is conducted. In my experience over many years of firstly legal practice, then working for both of the major publishers, and latterly in my own consultancy, those issues usually boil down to one or more of the following;

  • Reviews of subscription arrangements tend to lurch from one renewal period to the next with little continual checking of relative use and cost accountability within the practice,
  • There are usually only a few who are power users – i.e. those who have a good understanding of available resources and really understand how to search efficiently.
  • Regular user surveys are not held, so the information required to make decent decisions about what resources to run is incomplete.
  • There is often poor understanding and therefore poor use of available free to view resources like NZLII and other Free Access to Law Movement (FALM) sites, and NZ Government sites.
  • Training doesn’t always hit the target and that’s not usually the fault of the publishers. Often it’s because the practice has not identified the actual needs of individual practitioners and support staff. You wouldn’t go to an Ear Nose and Throat specialist if you had a sore toe, so equally why would you want to have an advanced understanding of how to research case law if most of your practice is transactional business and property work?   

I am always happy to hear from, and help, practices for whom any of these issues resonate.    

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