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  • Practices in evidence preparation have remained largely unchanged since the pre-computer era. These practices need to be updated to fit in with other digital initiatives and to move the entire end-to-end dispute resolution system to a fully electronic one.
  • While there may be a lot of hype about artificial intelligence, there are still significant benefits to be had by the adoption of some more ‘basic’ technology.
  • The systems are already in place to achieve a fully electronic system, but they need to be deployed more consistently, perhaps by moving to an opt-out rather than an opt-in approach.

Artificial intelligence has become the sujet du jour for the legal profession, but despite the number of words devoted to the subject in the media it is still in its relative infancy. While there is common usage in some areas, such as document review, it is unlikely to ever completely replace lawyers in all areas of practice. There are far more pressing issues on the electronic front currently taxing the minds of lawyers, legal administrators, and the courts.

The legal world has to get its administrative house in order before artificial intelligence hits centre stage – we need the entire legal process from discovery, data management and electronic evidence to the court to go fully digital.

Technology is playing an ever-increasing role in management of the law, and much of it comes down to efficient document management. We’re not talking about robots doing the work here, but about deploying other kinds of intelligent technology tools – all of which are currently available to the legal industry – to assist the courts in achieving their own stated objectives of ‘just, quick and cheap’ resolution of legal matters.

Between digital and analogue

Despite all the advances, we are failing to take full advantage of the benefits technology can provide. While e-filing is mandatory in some jurisdictions, it is not in others. Witness statements or affidavits and their appendices may have components prepared electronically, but exhibits and annexures are often compiled in paper form, using standards and practices that date back to the pre-internet era.

It’s 2019, but we still seem caught between the digital and analogue worlds, as it relates to the law. This translates not only to costs associated with renumbering and converting electronic documents to paper (and back to electronic form), but the inevitable costs associated with managing a physical set and conveying the bulky materials to and from court.

The missing link

The courts have in recent times embraced electronic filing, electronic discovery and electronic trials. In order to maximise the benefit of moving these processes to an electronic environment, a missing link in the chain must be added: a widely adopted protocol for the preparation of electronic evidence.

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