Sue Scott welcome - a meeting to find out about different initiatives
and strategies for standards for Australian legal information.
Telephone link-up with WA forum.
Around the room - identification of those present; being persons
from Courts, Government departments, law firms, software Vendors
and industry consultants.
Allison Stanfield - brief overview of Legal XML Australia and
advising Legal XML Australia's site is www.legalXML.org/Australia.
AS - aim is to encourage Australian jurisdictions to agree
on standards on documents, to exchange information in relation
to project areas, including judgments, transcripts and Court
SS introduced Todd Vincent who summarised Legal XML as having
been founded in 1998 with 17 original members, and as having
grown to over 700 members, of which 125 are Australian members.
A slide presentation entitled "Generic Structure and Methodology"
followed, where TV described the "Anatomy of a Legal XML
- Standards across different types of documents, legislature,
contracts and transcripts.
- If not standard, then similar in methodology -
- Element names (case sensitive, horizontal elements),
e.g. a date is rendered as "Date".
- Methodology: a way of structuring documents so they
are always the same.
- Simple with a view to building, i.e. start simple and envisage
the evolution of versions.
- XML must support legal vocabulary and be rich, flexible
- XML must fit in a word processor paradigm.
- XML must support document conversion and translation; with
tables, outlines and paragraphs.
A number of slides followed which featured a diagrammatic representation
of a document with "Front Matter", a "Document
Body", and "Back Matter". "Front" and
"Back Matter" included headings and referencing material.
When marked up with Legal XML, there was an additional section
at the "top" and "bottom" of the document,
named "Head" and "XML Signature". These
sections contained, respectively, metadata in RDF, and signatures,
or digital signatures. The "Document Body" included
paragraphs, tables, and lists, with vocabulary plugins.
TV then showed a raw Legal XML document through IE and applied
it to show the resulting document, after the mark-ups had been
There was a question from the floor on how RDF relates to an
XML scheme, which was answered by TV stating that DTD is the
standard syntax for describing XML, whereas RDF can be used
to mark metadata in a very flexible way.
A comment further clarifying RDF then came from the floor to
the effect that RDF is useful for describing all types of documents,
and resources; not just XML documents.
Another comment from the floor was in relation to XML developing
the use of similar or identical tags to describe some issue,
which elicited a brief discussion of the "meaning"
and the "container" theory. Briefly, the "meaning"
theory is where a tag is associated to an element, which relates
directly to what that element conveys in its meaning. This is
versus the "container" theory, where a tag is associated
to an element which generically describes the nature of the
element; and this is a tag more likely to be able to be applied
across the board.
SS offered thanks to TV for his presentation and discussion.
The meeting broke for Morning Tea.
SS then called for an update on areas of activity from Legal
XML Australia members.
Stephen Taylor from the South Australian Courts Administration
Authority advised that last week the Court signed a contract
to develop eFiling for its Small Claims Division. He advised
that the tender has required the use of XML, and that the Court
and the successful contractor, Morten Blackett, were now developing
the specifications for the project, which was scheduled to be
installed in March 2001. Morten Blackett are a local Adelaide
Tony Martin from the Family Court advised that they are piloting
an eFiling project with 4 firms taking part in the project and
using a Legacy database. Tony stressed that the Court was mindful
of understand its clients' needs, and wanted to lower costs
and risks for the Court and its users.
Imelda Payne from the Federal Court advised that the Judgments
Project was on hold and the eFiling Project had completed Stage
1, where documents were submitted for filing electronically;
and were proceeding to Stage 2, which would see the formulation
of a document management system which embodied the use of XML.
Peter Egri from B2G/Auscript advised that they had developed
a hybrid software that dealt with the attaching of PDF's to
emails that incorporated version 1 of Legal XML CourtFiling
Tony Sutherland from the WA forum advised that eFiling had
been occurring since May 2000, using XML, and there was a new
initiative relating to messaging using Legal XML, and they are
hoping it will be up and running in May 2001. This new project
is an inter-agency initiative, allowing messaging between the
Police Service, Courts, Gaols, and the Coroner's Court.
AS spoke of the Reporting Services Branch, who has a project
underway looking at using XML to create a standardised transcript.
Peter Meyer from Elkera advised of a SGML project he was working
on for the NSW Parliamentary Council where DTD's have been developed
to mark up existing legislation and highlighted the issue of
identifying standards. He also reported that he has been working
on a project with the Council of Law Reporting for NSW involving
data capture and mark-up of legislation dating from 1971. He
advised that the Parliamentary Council is now moving to embrace
Phillip Argy from Mallesons Stephen Jacques advised that MSJ
had developed internal DTD's, which he saw as being migrated
into any standards that evolve from Legal XML Australia.
Phil Farrelly from Ringtail Solutions said they had identified
XML as an efficient way to structure output data and were working
on the next generation with architecture that would be open
SS then handed over to William Hall, of Tenix Defence Systems.
WH described himself as a documentation specialist who has spent
the last 10 years providing services to the Defence Forces through
Tenix. WH spoke of how Tenix had to resolve the problem of tying
text to the requirements of the Defence Forces, so that issues
could be identified, such as, for example, contractually mandated
deliverables. WH spoke of these issues as being an administrative
and information management problem.
SS then opened the meeting to the floor for discussion as to
strategies for moving forward.
Peter Meyer suggested that Legal XML Australia cant do anything,
until there are standards; noting that expectations have to
be measures. He said there has to be a focus on what standards
are required, and suggested that these requirements would come
from actual projects. As an example, he spoke of eFiling and
said the parties to that project will have to work out what
the needs are, and then address those needs by identifying standards.
He also suggested that business requirements have to be looked
at; i.e. it is unlikely that clients of courts will lodge XML
documents for a while. He stressed that here has to be software
that supports DTD, so plug-ins can be used and data does not
have to be re-engineered. He also said it was important to develop
standards for use across all documents, for example, paragraphs
and other primitive objects. PM finished with the thought that
a standard DTD may have to be developed for integration, which
could then be customised or limited for use within an organization.
AS - wanted the meeting to define what the Legal XML Australia
Group is about; the role of the convenors and to encourage the
exchange of ideas.
AS had received a letter address to her and SS, from Chief
Justice Malcolm from WA and member of the Council of Chief Justices.
A meeting of the CCJ took place last week and the letter was
sent advising the Legal XML had been raised on the agenda. Some
paragraphs from that letter were read to the meeting; viz:
"... there was a general consensus that the development
of Legal XML data standards will be of assistance to all courts.
It was recognised that it was imperative that there be common
standards among the courts throughout Australia. In the development
of such standards there needs to be involvement of all parties
... The result is that the Chief Justices agreed to expand
the National Working Party in relation to the Electronic Appeals
Project to include other relevant aspects of information technology
developments including the adoption of common standards for
electronic filing of documens etc... "
Anne Wallace from AIJA spoke of the AIJA Technical Protocol
Committee and its eFiling and Legal XML initiatives, saying
2 things were important:
The need to get information about XML to users; and
The importance of Courts working with and getting feedback
from the profession.
SS - this raised the issue of where Legal XML Australia fits
in - as an information group, or a resource, which could prepare
an issues paper on eFiling to get the CCJ and AIJA up to speed,
and then act as an information exchange point.
AS - sees Legal XML Australia as a collaborative effort between
it and Legal XML.
TV - sees Legal XML Australia as having the ability to drive
standards in the areas of transcripts and judgments. He advised
that the growth of Legal XML and the workload now requires the
services of a full time director and possibly some staff. To
that end, he advised that Legal XML were considering raising
funds by way of levying a membership fee, set at about US$1,000
for institutional memberships and US$25 for individual memberships.
Anne Wallace - saw a problem with charging membership fees
of that order, particularly for Courts.
Stephen Taylor from SA Courts - sees Legal XML Australia as
a forum for the exchange of ideas.
Jason Harrop- the re-engineering of existing software will
not happen - the need is to identify requirements before software
is written. This body is probably better to look at requirements
which need to be developed, rather than getting down to writing
SS - a shared understanding about where standards are needed
and whether they can be Austro-centric or whether consideration
of compatibility of the international standards is necessary.
Sees Legal XML Australia as a discussion group to feed information
to relevant bodies, such as the CCJ and AIJA in relation to
the eFiling issue; with a strong focus on education, assistance
Matthew King from B2G/Auscript put the web forward as a good
example of how information exchange can be quickly captured
and built upon to formulate standards; as opposed to setting
out requirements and then adapting standards to meet those requirements.
Tony Sutherland from the WA linkup - sees Legal XML Australia
as a clearing house for information, for bringing together information
and then coming to a consensus. He also raised the issue of
timely action - people are already asking how they can conform
to Legal XML standards.
The eFiling Group - Peter Egri wants to put together an issues
paper and invites an information exchange from people present.
Phil Farrelly, etc volunteered to assist.
Phil Farrelly - the Vendor perspective - a product based on
international standards, which complies with the requirements
within Australia and overseas is the ideal - reducing the unit
cost of the data solution to all users.
SS - has been contacted by various Vendors wanting to organise
a demonstration of products - asked the meeting to consider
whether it viewed as appropriate the circulation by Legal XML
Australia to the mailing lists information and invitations to
attend product demonstrations. The meeting agreed that this
was appropriate, providing the Vendors were channelled through
the convenors, and did not access the mailing lists directly;
with the convenors to vett the information circulated.
- Members of Legal XML Australia to comment on eFiling Standards
- Comments to be pulled together for an issues paper to be
submitted to the CCJ working party
- Investigate the possibility of running a forum to address
proposed eFiling standards in February 2001. Involvement of
Legal XML Australia in this will be dependent on developments
resulting from the CCJ e-filing initiative. SS and AS to liaise
with the CCJ and AIJA on this
- Another face-to-face meeting in Sydney in March 2001, with
a call for papers to be presented at such a meeting. March
was considered to be a good time though other CLE activities
would need to be taken into account. It was suggested that
the needs of law firms need to be considered in designing
a program. Peter Meyer, Philip Argy, Anne Wallace, and Matthew
King offered to help with organising this seminar.