Multi-party data access project is “legal sector world first”

Swallow: We need to improve how data is collected and made accessible

LawtechUK has heralded a “legal sector world first”, after a nine-week ‘proof of concept’ project on multi-party data access involving City law firms Ashurst and Norton Rose Fulbright, Vodafone and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

LawtechUK said they collaborated to extract insights from collective data “without relinquishing control over their data or revealing confidential or personal information to any third party”.

This paved the way for data insights to be contributed by multiple parties “in circumstances where confidentiality and anti-competition requirements could make it prohibitive to doing so”.

LawtechUK said data insights obtained through multi-party access could improve decision making and risk mitigation, encourage standardisation in contracts, and “open the door for the exploration of big data analytics in law, revealing trends and associations in data that lead to benefits for business and wider society”.

In a report on the project, Lawtech said obtaining access to data in the legal sector was difficult, particularly where that access required sharing.

Potential legal and regulatory questions about sharing data, “coupled with the need to identify a clear commercial benefit or incentive to do so” meant that “very few legal service providers and legal departments share data or insights from data between themselves”.

However, the project involved access, rather than sharing, without the need for data to leave the control of participants.

In the initial trial, Ashurst and Norton Rose, Vodafone and the SRA uploaded 46 software as a service (SaaS) documents onto the AIR Platform, which was designed by tech firm RegulAItion with regulated industries in mind to enable “privacy-preserving data collaboration”.

The report said: “A demonstration algorithm was created to identify and analyse liability clauses within SaaS agreements.

“The algorithm successfully analysed 87% of the documents, which were docx and pdf. This is a typical to high success rate.”

LawtechUK said data privacy was “achieved and maintained” through AIR Platform’s infrastructure and parties did not need to convert their file formats, which was done by the platform.

“Participants were able to maintain control of their documents, without physically pooling them, as they were accessed in their host location via the cloud.”

Each member of the consortium ran risk and compliance processes on the project and parties before joining the project.

The algorithm delivered its local findings from the relevant participant’s data to that participant via a dashboard, which could be used to select findings for the aggregated report.

“Differential privacy, a technical privacy enhancing technique, was applied to the aggregated reporting, to further ensure confidentiality of contributor inputs.”

The report said all members of the consortium used sample or redacted documents for the proof of concept, even though the AIR Platform was designed to eliminate the need for redaction.

“The redaction was seen by participants as a responsible first step to test the privacy enhancing aspects of the technology.”

LawtechUK director Jenifer Swallow commented: “Embracing and using data is critical to the future success of the legal sector and the people it serves.

“All within the sector need to work to improve how data is collected and made accessible, including realising the opportunities of open data in law.”

Amy McConnell, head of legal operations and business contracting at Vodafone Group, added that being part of the project had provided “real insight” into the future of safe and secure access to legal data.

“This approach, and others to come like it, has the ability to revolutionise the legal sector and propel it into the data economy.”

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