The Long Tale of 2 Systems

AuthorSimon Lewis
DateJuly 15, 2016

The article, “7 Reasons Why European Cities Are Going To Beat U.S. Cities As Hubs For Innovation” reminded me of two cities: Toronto and Sydney. These cities had quite a few legal IT commonalities starting 30 years ago:

  • Both had 5 out of the 10 largest law firms standardise on lawyer-friendly graphical user interfaces (GUI) years before the rest of the legal world got it,
  • By democratising access to computers, a community of lawyers interested in lawyer-enhancing IT bloomed, and cross-pollinated each other from across the world,
  • Toronto was first out of the blocks with Peter Hart’s Legalware products which in turn led to Amicus Attorney, PCLaw, slaw, blue J Legal, Loom Analytics and ROSS, while Sydney had AustLII, Desktop Law, LEAP and Infotrack. Some of these initiatives are still changing the legal world, globally and greatly. It goes some way in answering Mitch Kowalski’s: “Why has Ontario been given first mover advantage in legal innovation?”

The result of pioneering efforts decades ago was that there were two legal IT camps: those who thought legal IT included GUI driven lawyer-enabling PCs with expert systems, thought processors, and databases, and those who focussed on DOS-based systems optimised for typists and bookkeepers. The fact that the former did not have as much impact on the business of law then as it should have, is that clients were less sophisticated, less empowered, and under less financial pressure, than now, and the Internet was not there to help.

The Law Societies in both cities have recently highlighted the natural progression of lawyers thinking differently: The CBA’s Legal Future’s Initiative report has Toronto lawyers’ fingerprints all over it both in terms of authorship, and digestion. The Law Society of NSW has its Future of Law & Innovation in the Profession (FLIP) Commission of Inquiry well underway.

FLIP will take the rest of 2016 to conclude and deliver a report which, being in writing, cannot help but lose some of the message. Fortunately, for reasons covered by one of the speakers you can make up your own mind when you view submissions which included:

  • a co-founder of AustLII and the world-wide LII movement Professor Graham Greenleaf;
  • the tech-free concerns of John Henshaw who after decades of service to law, admits that the court system is broken and that we need to introduce Judicial Referees to alleviate the crisis in access to justice. I would suggest that Judicial Referees + new approaches such as the Enright...

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