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An online decision tree for import/export law, and the potential for similar systems

At ILTA 2009, John Alber, a partner at Bryan Cave, described a system his firm developed to give advice on certain export and import questions that many companies encounter. For an annual fee of “a couple of $100,000,” subscribers can query the system and find many of the answers they seek. Presumably if the system does not answer the question, the firm stands ready to deal with those unusual issues.

It seems to me that a handful of legal departments that face with some frequency questions in a certain area of law might band together and retain a technologically savvy firm to develop such an expertise system. The software is available; the need is apparent; law firms ought to be receptive. Specialized legal knowledge embedded in the software would be codified, more widely available day or night, cost less (perhaps), and grow in robustness with use. Of course, such an endeavor challenges the business model of law firms and the job security of inside legal specialist.

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One response to “An online decision tree for import/export law, and the potential for similar systems”

  1. Doug Irish says:

    An interesing idea, and worth pursuing. As one who both uses and teaches decision tree analysis for case mgt & evaluation, I can see some hurdles that would need to be overcome. E.g., (1) the “NIH” syndrome (“not invented here”); (2) movements in the law not getting plugged into the system quickly enough or accurately; (3) the tendency of people who don’t use a decision tree frequently not to use it at all because they are uncertain about how to do so, and consequently don’t use it at all (or effectively) so it remains a tool left on a “dusty shelf.”
    On the other hand, the creation of some kinds of “templates” wouldn’t be all that difficult.
    What kind of feedback have you received on this idea?