Submitted by Jamie Hamilton on Thu, 09/26/2013 - 13:06

An ex-Linklaters lawyer who got sick of proofreading has invented a computer program to do it automatically.

Travis Leon, who was an associate in Linklaters' Derivatives and Structured Products group until he quit in 2009, launched 'XRef' late last year.

The IT gizmo, which is currently being trialled at four City firms, checks whether defined terms are capitalised and spelt correctly in documents. It also spots where puny fallible humans have included definitions which aren't used and capitalised terms which aren't defined. XRef may not be first date chat material, but Leon says that when it was tested on a dozen leading firms' precedents, not one was found to be error-free.
 

  How it might look: XRef takes over from a trainee

 
Leon told RollOnFriday he was inspired after "a number of painful hours" in the office, when he decided it was "absurd" that individuals (ie him) were having to manually comb through doorstop-sized offerings until the early hours.

But ridding the legal world of his nemesis won't tempt Leon back: "if this works out, I have absolutely no intention of returning to lawyering".
 

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/27/2013 - 12:51

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Proofreaders do a lot more than just check spelling. We fact-check, adjust for country-specific audiences, implement unique house styles, incorporate the most up-to-date developments (not just in language usage but also in legal matters)... It is beyond absurd to assume that a machine can do all of this accurately - there are just too many subtleties and shifting rules that apply to the proofreading process. If you want something proofed properly, there is no getting around it the fact that you have got to hire a human to do it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/27/2013 - 13:18

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@anonymous user

I don't think anyone is suggesting proof readers can be replaced. The site just says it helps check for defined term errors, which probably can be automated to a fair extent. Most lawyers dont get every document proof read professionally, so having a tool on your desktop to check for one type of (important error) is probably a good thing...

Submitted by Roll On Friday on Fri, 09/27/2013 - 13:19

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Errors have been found on every document over 25 pages that we have checked - that includes top firms’ precedent documents and those that have already been executed and are in the public domain. We have also been surprised at the results but, unfortunately, humans are prone to error; especially lawyers who are often making these checks with tired eyes and under time pressure.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/01/2013 - 14:55

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This could be done manually in Word using Find-and-Replace but it would still be a bit laborious and users tend to overlook or omit things. The product looks good though and will probably catch on once a few firms start using it ... especially if the seccies like it.

There is a lot of software that does things which are already available in Word for free (e.g. Workshare document comparison, Legal MacPac styles, etc) because they make it easier for the user and add on a bit of extra useful functionality besides, why not one more? If it saves time and makes life easier (especially for 900-odd page offering circulars or 500-page share agreements, etc) why would anyone be against it?