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".

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 27 September 13 12:51

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.

Anonymous 27 September 13 12:53

"Leon says that when it was tested on a dozen leading firms' precedents, not one was found to be error-free"

Err so they found errors on all of them?

Anonymous 27 September 13 13:18

@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...

Roll On Friday 27 September 13 13:19

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.

Anonymous 28 September 13 10:25

Quit or was made redundant? And since when was RofNews providing free advertising for businesses under the guise of a "news" story?

Roll On Friday 28 September 13 12:01

is it clever enough to distinguish between the start of a sentence and a defined term though?

Anonymous 28 September 13 18:01

Think I'd rather sit with Leon at a Christmas party than a big wet fish! ... Plus, he looks quite hot

Anonymous 29 September 13 20:17

It would be pretty trivial programming to make it able to spot the start of a sentence.

Anonymous 01 October 13 14:55

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?

Anonymous 01 October 13 15:20

Isn't this just the same as Deal Proof (now owned by Westlaw)? Hardly new.

Roll On Friday 03 October 13 18:20

just seen something called Lexisdraft that does this and covers citations also- all in Word- so there are others out there.