Comment Blog 27 June, 2019

True innovation is about creating better services

On the face of it, you could argue a legal evidence management platform only digitises a paper-based process. There’s nothing wrong with that of course. Digitising is costeffective, takes the stress and risk out of bundling and it’s good for the environment.

Our internal data shows that 100 million pages stored on CaseLines is equivalent to 72,000 trees. It adds up. Government data shows paperwork is the third biggest cost in policing. Year on year, this will help to reduce the reliance our legal system has on paper, and eventually eliminate any need for it.

So, in that sense, evidence management platforms are more modernisation than innovation, except that there’s more to innovation than just shiny new technology. True innovation is about improving services and making our lives better. This is exactly what digital justice does.

Since the UK implemented CaseLines, one of the positive results has been that the number of Crown Court hearings has reduced by 50 per cent. This is because digital evidence is available much more quickly than paper evidence was, so legal professionals can see the case earlier. Another really interesting thing we are seeing as a result of this has been more early guilty pleas. Earlier access to evidence gives the defence more time with it and more time to advise appropriately. Of course, the converse is also true; if you’re innocent, you have more time to prepare your case. This could have a huge impact on the speed and quality of justice.

Digital justice also speeds up hearings, so solicitors spend less time in court. This reduces the number of adjournments, therefore meaning a lower number of hearings per case. One customer estimated a cost reduction of £70 per hearing, equating to a direct cost saving of over £60,000 in their first year using a digital justice system.

Then there’s hidden costs you don’t consider. Digital systems ensure there is no way evidence can be lost or tampered with. In many jurisdictions, key evidence often goes missing, resulting in cases being dismissed, time being wasted and guilty people walking free. Cutting the risk of losing or misplacing files means protecting the integrity and the time of the institutions that use it.

This is particularly reflected in the artificial intelligence (AI) the systems use. Like digital justice, it’s practical rather than futuristic, and is built around augmenting current processes for the people who work in law, rather than replacing those individuals. The solutions are simple; AI can scan entire bundles in seconds and highlight duplicates, read written text and even detect faces in images. Entire documents can be translated into another language in seconds and spoken word can immediately be converted into written. Obviously, this saves lots of time, but it saves people from the drudgery of mundane tasks, and frees them to focus on more important parts of legal services.

Contrary to the common perception, law isn’t stuck in the past. Judges value the shift to digital justice because they see how it is improving services. The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales described the digital court system as a “God-send”. Now that’s innovation.