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On the job as an electronic trial (eTrial) consultant at NuLegal
Alex Thompson studies Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts at Deakin University is now electronic trial (eTrial) consultant at NuLegal.
What's your job title? How long have you worked in your current position?
I am an electronic trial (eTrial) consultant at NuLegal. I’ve been working in this position for 18 months.
What does your job involve?
The main function of my job is to provide lawyers and courts with a more efficient alternative to paper trials. We operate an online review book for all documents the parties wish to look at in preparing their case. We also set up the court room with computer monitors so that these documents can be presented during trial.
What is your employer’s mission/goal?
NuLegal’s goal is to provide practitioners with innovations that make their jobs faster, easier and more efficient. We focus on providing two different services to achieve this.
My colleagues in the electronic discovery (eDiscovery) division provide an effective platform called Everlaw for reviewing key documents during the trial preparation phase. On the eTrial front, our team is focused on providing a genuine alternative to paper trials.
Our electronic document presentation system is faster and more efficient than using paper, and eliminates the need for lawyers to lug around voluminous folders of paper documents, making everyone’s life a little bit easier.
What do you do on a daily basis?
The day to day basis of eTrial consulting depends largely on the stage of the hearing of a matter. When we have ongoing trials, we are in court, running the Electronic Document Presentation system for the Court and the parties. This involves bringing documents up on the court monitors at the request of counsel. In the background, we manage and maintain the Online Review Book, which can be as simple as ensuring that all systems are operational, or can be as complex as uploading 100’s of documents at a time to be used in court that day.
Have you worked on any projects that you’re particularly proud of?
I have worked on several large scale trials but the project I am particularly proud of would be the recent ANZ v Oswal trial we ran. This was a lengthy, complex case which required me to be alert and engaged at all times to ensure that I was meeting the presentation needs of counsel on their feet.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your role?
For me, the most challenging aspect of my role was learning the technological side of the job. Coming from a legal background, I did not have any pre-existing IT training. Whilst it was a steep learning curve, I caught on relatively quickly and now find the process of uploading documents to be quite rewarding, as it is an indicator of the progress I have made.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your role?
The most rewarding aspect of my role is the efficiency we can achieve in a court room. When you walk into a regular, paper-based trial, the inefficiency of the proceedings is instantly noticeable. From the trolleys with folders of documents, to the sound of the hustle and bustle of pages being flicked and folders being thrown around, to the long pauses while everyone tries to figure out what page they’re supposed to be on, the whole thing takes up far too much time. In an electronic hearing, the document requested is on the screens in a matter of seconds. All parties and the judge are instantly on the same page and travelling between multiple, lengthy documents is as easy as the click of a few buttons. The speed and accuracy at which an electronic hearing runs is incredibly rewarding to be a part of and something I’m very proud of.
How is technology changing the practice of law? What are the advantages of embracing technology?
Law is a historically old fashioned industry. Practitioners and the courts are tentative to embrace the use of technology. However, technology provides a clear pathway for practitioners and courts to improve their processes and operate with greater efficiency. In early 2017, the Supreme Court of Victoria passed a new practice note, adopting electronic trial services as the new norm when running a trial, replacing the outdated and inefficient practice of preparing all matters with paper court books. So far, not many judges have adapted to this policy change, but those who have are already seeing the advantages in reduction of court time per matter, monetary savings for the parties and ease of review of documents during trial.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the South-Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, more specifically Mount Waverley.
Where were you educated and what did you study?
I studied at Deakin University – Burwood campus. I completed a Bachelor of Laws, graduating with honours, and a Bachelor of Arts, double majoring in Politics and International Studies, graduating with distinction.
What attracted you to that field of study?
I had always been interested in the processes involved in the legal and political industries. I thought that studying them would give me better insight into what I wanted to do for work. In particular, I have a keen interest in the field of criminal law and I would love to someday see the courts move towards electronic hearings for these matters.
What personal qualities are required for success in your position?
To be involved in the legal industry, a person has to be driven and motivated. Jobs can be quite demanding in the industry, so it’s important that people have a good work ethic and are prepared to work hard. A level of confidence in their abilities and comfort in being in a court room environment are also helpful. An innovative mindset is also a big asset, we are constantly looking at new ways to improve the way we operate, and being receptive to that change is a bonus.
What’s one thing it might surprise people to learn is advantageous in your job?
The greatest advantage of my job is the close nature of the relationships you are able to form with judges, barristers and senior lawyers. As a first year grad at a law firm, you are unlikely to have the opportunity to work on big cases with senior lawyers. In my job, I have spent 18 months working alongside senior judges in the Supreme Court of Victoria and numerous partners and senior associates at big law firms around Australia. This is a remarkable opportunity that might surprise some.
What are the limitations or downsides of your job?
As with any job in the legal industry, the work week can sometimes be quite long. When we have trials on, we often work long hours, as we are in court 10-4 and provide out of court support to lawyers and the court staff. However, our company is a big believer in maintaining a work-life balance and offer plenty of opportunities to work from home and rest up when not required in court.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a law student?
- Do all your law readings.
- Make an effort to attend networking events and get yourself out there. It’s all about who you know.
- Try and complete your work experience days as early as possible. This will save you a lot of stress down the track!