What is the future of legal research?

Quite a big question this and not one that "The future of legal research and search tools" answers, nonetheless this is a really interesting article on how search tools are developing. Providing a search tool that every fee-earner "enjoys" using and makes the most of is a very difficult task, fee-earners are not only looking for different things but individuals search in different ways.




The article looks in detail at some of the distinct issues that legal professionals face when it comes to searching for information within their organisation. The biggest of these in my mind is identifying what documents are going to be most valuable for fee-earners.


From the article "Understanding what lawyers want from their search engine is only one part of the puzzle. Conceptual searching - where the search engine will be able to determine what a document is about, rather than just the keywords it contains - is one of the most prized features of existing legal search tools, and it will only become more important in coming years. In fact, according to North, conceptual searching is not only a dramatic shift in search technology, it will change how lawyers traditionally conduct searches."


The other concept the article discusses is Social Search this is essentially the process of mining informal systems like blogs, wikis, social networks and microblogging sites or tapping into the "activity stream" of lawyers' behaviour to try and "provide valuable information that might otherwise be missed"

The problem with this of course is the culture of law firms and the fee-earners that work in them "Culturally, [lawyers are] nervous about putting things out there that aren't properly scrutinised, verified and sanctioned," she says. "While you would think that because they're effectively trading in information and knowledge, it would lend itself to Web 2.0, [but those] underlying cultural issues oppose the freedom and sharing of that information."

This is a really interesting article which not only looks at how search is being used but some of the issues that law firms needs to consider when they're thinking about implementing a search tool.