Integrated Search Solutions may bring significant benefit to lawyers. According to the dutch news-site NU.nl, many lawyers suffered from lost or delayed cases because they could not find digital information (see http://bit.ly/dbPltc).
The article states that electronic information is seen as crucial or important for their daily work by 90% of dutch lawyers. The information is based on a recently published survey among lawyers, held by Symantec. Lawyers express a need for integrated search.
For lawyers, written information in many forms, like case-law, correspondence, contracts etc form a strong basis for their work. Most of this information is available in digital form. Be it internally in their firm or externally in the rapidly expanding number or online-resources. It is not always clear where the information can be found, or where that particular document I’ve read before is residing.
It may be stored in structured environment like a Document Management System (DMS) or maybe in a Relation Management System (CRM) – both of which often are mainly designed for structured storage, but do not always excel in finding stored documents. Or it may simply be in one of so many stored documents on a file server or the intranet. And then it gets worse: an increasing amount of published information like case-law, journals, comments etc is getting available in digital archives. Ofcourse this has many advantages, but when I lack an integrated access to all this information, I may get lost. Or my information gets lost. Or even worse: my case…
As said before (see my post on integrated search): traditionally all this information would simply be made accessible through indexing by a search engine. However, as the amount of information is constantly increasing, and as the number of sources keeps growing, soon this may proof no longer feasible. A much stronger solution can be found in a combination of indexing the internal content and connecting to the outside sources through a federation engine. That gives a better guarantee on completeness and currency of information. At it makes you more flexible to add desired sources in the future.
This holds not only for lawyers, the same is true for any information-intensive profession. Think of tax advisors, researchers, medical staff etc.
A good example of integration is offered by Square Information Systems. It’s Virtual Knowledge Solution combines both worlds, integrating the Easy Federated Search solution in the enterprise search environment. It even adds the possibility to add important information to files, virtual collections of relating information from both internal and external resources. In this way all the information related to a topic or a law-case can be kept together in one place and shared among colleagues.
Information management in this digital age requires not only the ‘facilitation of finding’, it needs to address the need for backtracking and sharing relevant content. There’s nothing new to this. The whole 2.0 thinking builds on it. However, in the corporate environment, we are still at the beginning of pragmatic implementations. The Symantec survey again shows a need for integrated search. We need to work still on its positioning, so that it’s also acknowledged as a suitable strategic solution.