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Three legal data visualisations

Three examples of visualisation of legal information crossed my screen this month. Each is worth noting for deeper examination. Data visualisation is a regular topic for Lightbulb, see the further reading list below.

During contract drafting workshops I've run for lawyers I've mentioning the many benefits of visualisation of contractual business processes.

I've  also called for more legislation featuring graphics. This usually prompts a blank stare, puzzlement or ridicule along the lines of "it'll never happen" or "it's not practical".

Yet as business law cases and legislation become more and more convoluted, proof mounts that there is a significant need for legal data visualisation. Software is coming to the rescue for that need.

This leads to the first example of simplication using software-supported data visualisation. It was in an email from Simon Lewis of Sinch, a Sydney IT and software consultancy for law firms. Simon has been among the leaders for more than 20 years in helping lawyers make better use of IT.

He wrote:

Below is a link to a video in Flash format with sound showing one of a dozen or so interactive diagrams we used in the last of the Bottom of the Harbour prosecutions in court.

Now check out this link to the animated visualisation prepared by Simon and his team for a very complex business law litigation matter - http://www.simplifylaw.com/demos/detail/.

If animation is not needed, and something simplier will suit a need, consider graphic presentation tools like bCisive from the Australian software company,  Austhink Software Pty Ltd. I get where bCisive can be useful. In my own practice I've kept things very simple in our visualisations by pushing Microsoft Word to its limits.

The second example that came to me this month is Typologies of Intellectual Property [typologies.org]. The data set it draws on is extraordinarily dense. The visualisation has been described as by /infosthetics.com as:

...[A]n almost real-time, interactive visualization of patent data issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Every week, an XML file with about 3,000 new patents is published by the USPTO and made available through data.gov. Data is available back to January 2005.

The third example also concerns visualisations relevant to intellectual property. A press release announced this month that IP Australia has worked with Australian software company, Holocentric Pty Ltd, to map IP Australia's business processes.

IP Australia is an ISO 9001 certified organisation. It incorporates the Patent, Designs, Trade Marks and Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR) Offices. It is an agency of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR).

The Holocentric Modeler software enables creates a model of an organisation's people, systems and processes and their interdependencies. It is related to Modelpedia, a Wiki-style platform that creates a reference for organisational information. On its website Holocentric publishes "movies" to illustrate its software.

In closing, some more on my own use of visualisation. Contract drafting is a process that requires identification of business processes and relationships between individuals and organisations. I look at the above examples of visualisation and ask - how could the deal making and contracting process be visualised for staff training purposes and to help monitor the status of contractual projects.

One day blank stares, puzzlement or ridicule from lawyers will be replaced by excitement at the simplicity visualisation helps achieve.


Further reading

Image: Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Structure joyeuse, 1926.


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