Article by VIQ Solutions General Manager for APAC, Matthew Fowler.
It’s no secret that Australian courts are strong, with cases scheduled for months, if not years. This is in part due to the change of landscape in a country emerging from progressive blockages and adapting to restricted physical distancing.
Many technologies are touted as “quick fixes” to help the business world and the public sector get back to normal operation, but no single solution will eliminate the backlog. Rather, the Australian legal system must seek to identify individual pain points, and organizations must create a framework to address each of these points.
To begin with, let’s go back to some fundamentals of the legal profession: the simple fact of reserving rooms for briefings or mediation has become much more difficult. Legal professionals had to switch to virtual meetings almost overnight, significantly delaying processes. Actual hearings in courtrooms could not proceed normally for a few months during the lockdown, and these cases were postponed. The subsequent ripple effect meant that new cases were scheduled for many months in the future.
Judge-only trials and virtual hearings have streamlined some processes, but Australian courtrooms continue to groan under the weight of backlogs.
Some technologies will ultimately reduce the average waiting time for trials and hearings. They should be seen as part of a holistic agenda for change in the Australian justice system to make legal services faster and more efficient.
Technologies focused on content services, collaboration tools, better virtual meeting spaces and smarter recording are proving critical. If a law firm wants to streamline processes, getting everyone on the same page is a fundamental starting point.
The same can be said of the justice system – processes will be made more efficient through better collaboration and better access to notes, documents and images. Automated recordings of interrogations, briefings and trials can be integrated into a content feed to create a 360 ° view of all available information.
Additionally, current tools can use artificial intelligence (AI) to capture and transcribe virtual meetings regardless of the number of people involved, including meetings that take place in a real courtroom. The governance of recordings and transcriptions is much stricter than the traditional “paper trail” given the fully audited digital access lineage; that is, a record of the time, date and person involved is made in the metadata every time these files are viewed.
A content services solution can then be applied to store files securely in the cloud or in an on-premises data center. Individuals authorized to access these documents can use their digital credentials to instantly access files, whether they are in business offices or at home.
Collaboration on workflows is made more efficient by having the right tools and making sure that someone is working on the most recent version of a document. With modern tools, people can collaborate in real time and see other people’s notes and edits.
Using an AI-powered tool that records briefings and courtroom proceedings reduces the time required for transcribing and filing notes and increases efficiency and accuracy. Some software can learn and adapt on the job, ensuring that very detailed records are created and all the necessary data is available to stakeholders.
Solutions can also be tailored to specific contexts, be it courtroom hearings, appeals, briefings, witness statements or judicial instructions. This can be done regardless of the volume of data recorded, so that the result is the same whether there are two or three people in the room recording a witness statement or 30 people in a full courtroom.
Content services can also provide tools for “activating” paper records, that is, converting static paper documents into searchable digital files. Modern smart scanning tools can capture the words on a page and convert them into digital records with a high level of accuracy.
A “business search” tool increases an organization’s ability to find information quickly and efficiently across the spectrum. Think of a search engine like Google, but tailored to the specific needs of the professional body that owns it. A business search tool can search the web, internal files, archives, court documents, digital transcripts, and even social media pages to find content specific to an application.
In the age of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, the legal world has pivoted to accept that virtual meetings are now an accepted standard for communication. Organizations must find a solution that meets their criteria and familiarize all individuals with a platform that will allow procedures to run smoothly.
Digital transcription solutions can capture and record conversations and statements made on these platforms; they can also evolve to the level of the virtual conference in cases where several stakeholders speak.
There are various tools available that can speed up both court proceedings and the inner workings of the legal profession. Digital transformation has been underway for years, but the stage is now set for legal organizations and courts to optimize their systems using the latest technology.