Technology within the legal profession is making significant leaps forward in the current climate. Last week, Holmes List proudly announced they are the first List to be eBrief Ready. eBrief is a document sharing platform that allows briefs to be digitally assembled, distributed and annotated by clients, barristers and expert witnesses.
To learn more about the impact of this technology, we spoke to eBrief founder Stephen Foley and Martin Bartfeld QC from Holmes List.
Stephen, what led you to develop eBrief?
Prior to eBriefs, law firms were sending briefs to barristers in various ways including USB sticks, multiple emails, Dropbox and OneDrive. These technologies weren't purpose-built so they were fraught with problems and were very insecure, which was problematic given the confidential nature of the documents being sent. My team's vision was, imagine you could have a secure place to deliver all your documents which would be accessible 24/7, and all your matters could be contained in one interface. I'm thrilled to have turned this vision into reality with eBrief.
How did you develop the eBrief platform?
eBrief was developed through tuning into the needs of both barristers and law firms. I was fortunate enough to join Lander & Rogers' LawTech Hub, which brings entrepreneurs and legal professionals together to create technological solutions to practical legal problems. Through our partnership with Landers & Rogers, I have had direct access to lawyers and legal professionals which has enabled me to build a platform that is intuitively tailored to meet the needs of those using the platform. Our bundling process:
- Produces a digital copy replicating the need for physical files
- Documents are completely searchable (OCR’d)
- An index is automatically generated, updated and hyperlinked
- The brief is hyperlinked with Table of Contents, and;
- Paginated to the requirements of the courts
Martin, have you used eBrief and if so, how was your experience with the technology?
I have. I've found the technology to be well developed, and it is constantly evolving. I think it adds real value to the process of transmitting instructions and documents electronically.
Out of all the cloud-based systems which facilitate electronic transmission of documents, eBrief has the benefit of providing PDF files which have been processed by an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) program. With other systems, the instructing solicitor or barrister must perform OCR on each file either before the document is sent or when it is received. This process is automated in eBrief.
Once loaded onto the eBrief platform, the system provides opportunities to work with the documents to prepare for a trial or to provide advice. An index is automatically generated and hyperlinked to the document in the brief and documents can be marked up with tags, searched for strings of words and reports can be extracted. eBrief comes complete with very powerful tools.
eBrief is tailored specifically to Australian conditions, so as courts’ practices and procedures change, the program can quickly be adapted to deal with those changes.
Martin, how will eBrief impact the way barristers work on a daily basis?
eBrief has removed the need for hardcopy folders full of documents being delivered all over the country every day. Lawyers are now able to efficiently put briefs together and they can be further refined as the matter proceeds. The brief can be shared with every practitioner who requires access, and it can be worked on collaboratively.
The opportunities for efficiencies and cost saving for clients have yet to be fully realised, but early indications based on research conducted by Lander & Rogers suggest substantial savings of time and therefore costs, thanks to the efficiencies in the system.
Stephen, what are the environmental implications of eBriefing?
As of the start of 2020, eBrief has already helped barristers and law firms save over 350 trees (2.9 million sheets of paper and counting!). Instead of printing out multiple copies of every document to provide a brief to counsel, only those documents which need to be in hard copy will be printed.
Martin, eBriefing is another example of digitisation in the legal industry. What do you predict is next?
The legal system takes time to change. The simple question of how to sign documents electronically is vexing the authorities and no doubt a committee will be formed to solve the problem, but it will take some years.
There is also talk of Artificial Intelligence being applied to resolve disputes, although I can’t see it as a viable alternative to a human being applying skill and knowledge to make a considered judgment. However, clearly there is scope to utilise the speedy processing and analysis of information provided by the ever-increasing power and storage capacities of internet computing platforms.
The way I work today is totally different to the way I worked when I started practicing law. My first job as an Articled Clerk was to hang faxes on a clothes line because they emerged wet from the fax machine.
I think the biggest challenge is to educate practitioners and judges who claim that they don’t understand the computer and are afraid to use its full potential.
Stephen, what's next for eBrief?
More than 30% of the Victorian Bar (500+ users) are now on our platform and this is growing by 10% each month. More and more law firms and Lists are moving to eBriefs. We are excited to see the technology being adopted; it's helping so many people to be more efficient and better prepared with matter creation and running of matters.
eBrief has recently launched a new annotation function which means that not only can lawyers search the information, but they can now duplicate the notes within the software.
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