A Barrister’s Perspective on Smart Legal Research

Representing clients to the best of your ability requires you have access to legal information, fast. This can help you make strategic decisions in the moments that matter. But despite their need to retrieve legal answers quickly, research shows that a significant portion of Australian sole practitioners and Barristers do not invest in legal research tech. They rely on traditional search engines instead. 

David Kim, Barrister at Owen Dixon Chambers, is familiar with the free legal research experience. It works okay for him, to a point, before it becomes a hindrance. In a customer case study, he compares free research to the new Westlaw. The key differences are explained in this article and via David’s case study, which you can access from the form on this page. 

Free vs paid legal research

One way to describe unpaid legal research is with the ‘needle in the haystack’ analogy – the legal answers you are searching for may well exist among the many sites you visit, but you won’t find them easily. This is not that dissimilar to what David experienced before he incorporated the new Westlaw into his legal research toolkit. 

“In litigation, a key focus in building your client’s case should be to convey the case in a clear and persuasive way to the decision-maker, not being stuck in a legal research rabbit hole chasing crumbs of correct information across the internet,” David explained. 

Through partnering with Thomson Reuters, the Barrister helped transform Westlaw into its newest form, which has taken paid legal research to a new level. The new Westlaw draws on artificial intelligence to offer smart features for its users. Key features include natural legal language search, smart suggestions and advanced customisation, where practitioners can tweak their dashboard experience. Making full use of the features available as a new Westlaw user can help you raise the bar on your legal research

Intuition and smart suggestions

David spoke with Legal Insight recently on the perils of ‘desktop discounting’, where practitioners can commonly apply a cut (sometimes unwittingly) to their client fees due to the excessive time they spend on legal research. Whether you can relate to the painstaking process of conducting legal research on free websites, or want to make better use of your time, David’s case study on the new Westlaw indicates that these problems can be solved with smart technology. 

“For me now, legal research is no longer a hindrance because the new Westlaw is intuitively responding to the way I think. It provides me with what I need in an efficient way. For example, the system intuitively displays not only the documents that match my search parameters, but it also provides me suggestions for further reading or issues related to the one I am searching,” said David. 

The Barrister added that it therefore cuts down the time he would usually spend conducting legal research. If legal tech can help shift the burden from a needle in a haystack scenario to one which takes you to your legal query in seconds, the former becomes an easy choice. 

“My clients’ needs are changing with the times, as are their expectations of my work and how I actually deliver value to them. With this in mind, a tool like the new Westlaw feels right for now,” David concluded. 

You can download David’s story here on Legal Insight for his perspective on smart legal research in full. Alternatively, if you’re ready to ditch the use of free online databases, grab this guide to choosing the best legal research software for your needs

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