hello world

november 2021
last updated: november 2021

What is noslegal?

noslegal started in Aug 2020 as an informal group of people whose work and organisations would benefit from better, but simple, ways to categorise legal work.  

This is important to us because we believe it can help with topics like:

  • Work and budgets: managing and reporting on our work more effectively and consistently.
  • Knowledge: organising legal knowledge resources in a practically oriented way.
  • Credentials and services: better understanding and expressing our organisation's experience, internally and externally.
  • People: identifying individuals' experience and development needs, and allocating work
  • Joining up: addressing these topics in a joined up way within an organisation and between organisations, internationally as well as within a specific legal system. This can help make legal work and knowledge more understandable, and also easier to compare.

Why did this require a new initiative?

There have been attempts to address broadly similar topics over decades. But we believe they haven't really delivered the benefits sought. 

We are dissatisfied with the status quo in our organisations and also with the available alternatives. We think this is only going to be resolved through a joint effort, without any one organisation seeking to assert strong control.

Most of us have already considered alternatives which originated in certain very specific contexts such as 

  • litigation costs specifically - an important topic, but a niche, and one with lots of local variation across the world
  • legal research, teaching and textbooks - also important, but very focused on legal doctrines which may not be so relevant for the needs we're focused on, and which vary across borders
  • e-billing codes - widely regarded as not delivering their intended benefits and increasingly being challenged by the newer generation of natural language processing software

Different needs

The reality is that different contexts have different needs, and the deeper you go into one or two of them, the greater the likelihood of becoming less relevant to others.

A balance therefore needs to be struck so as to avoid traps such as

  • a taxonomy of purportedly wide relevance which is in fact over-fitted to certain needs
  • a multiplicity of micro-taxonomies which don't have enough community to be maintained to a decent level, and which don't talk to each other

We believe better is possible, though not easy.  Our basic strategy is to

  1. focus on the needs outlined at the start of this article, as they are sufficiently similar and would benefit from joining-up
  2. keep it simple, being wary of niches which may distract from the core needs
  3. leave specialist groups (of various types, public and private) to extend in ways they judge useful for specialist needs

What's the noslegal timeline?

As background, here's the original proposal from Jun 2020.  In Aug 2020, sufficient people had expressed interest that we decided to work together on producing some practical, consistent taxonomies for the purposes mentioned above.

By late 2020, we had decided on a basic strategy and published some initial visualisations to illustrate our work so far. We iterated these among interested organisations in the first nine months of 2021. More organisations heard about our work during that period and decided to participate.

In Jul 2021, once it was clear that there was sufficiently wide and strong interest to make this worthwhile, we established a not-for-profit company to license out intellectual property on an open source basis so that people can freely adopt it with confidence. 

In Oct 2021, we agreed a work plan leading to our first publication of usable material is in Feb 2022. 

Who's involved?

So far, our active membership mainly comprises lawyers, knowledge engineers and other knowledge systems professionals, financial and other business information / data systems professionals, designers, legal operations, project management and process improvement professionals and people with various technology specialities.

We mainly work at UK or global legal services provider and tech companies, some of which are listed on the home page

We're aiming to broaden our involvement to include other perspectives in meaningful ways - see our Nov 2021 news update.

  • For example, at the time of writing, we have sounding boards which will be active during Nov-Dec 2021 and Jan 2022 to provide feedback on material intended for publication in early Feb 2022.

What are your guiding principles?

Please see this separate article.

What else may noslegal do in future?

In late 2021 and early 2022, we're focused on readying the work outlined above, then on supporting its successful adoption.

We may adopt other open source legal topics in future. These may include taxonomies but also other things. If you have an idea, please contact us. The basic requirements are

  • Relates to law
  • Public benefit
  • Feasible
  • Viable team and prospect of forming a community to deliver and maintain it
  • Consistent with the guiding principles above

We currently have one such project in its early stages and are considering another.

We can't provide financial support but we can provide an open source licensing mechanism and a growing community of people interested in making the legal world a better place.

How can I find out more or become involved?

If you find this interesting and would like to explore becoming involved, or even if you're just curious or have some ideas to suggest, please get in touch via the form at the bottom of the home page.

- the noslegal team, November 2021


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