Interview: Owen Bourke of Clayton Utz on growing awareness of legal technology in Australia

Owen Bourke is Director, Forensics & Technology at Clayton Utz, one of Australia’s largest law firms. My interview with him took place more than a year ago, at Relativity Fest 2017, but the points which he makes in it are as pertinent now as they were then.

One of Owen Bourke’s subjects in this interview is the specialist forensic practice group which Clayton Utz has set up; the other is the growth of acceptance and understanding of technology in support of legal practice in Australia.

Owen Bourke said that Clayton Utz had decided to set up a new forensic practice group, the first in Australia, to sit alongside all the other practice groups in the firm. It was a key part of the decision that the specialist group works with all departments, and not just those involved in disputes. The Clayton Utz Forensic and Technology Services web page is here.

As well as working closely with other teams in the firm, Forensic and Technology Services is attracting clients itself. Its focus is on fact-finding and the management of commercial, regulatory and reputation risks.

The forensic and technology services skills include forensic accounting, data analytics, investigations and digital forensics. These complement and sit beside the firm’s long-standing legal technology practice.

Owen Bourke said that the firm uses a mixture of tools. One of the key tools is Relativity which, Owen Bourke said, is yielding “excellent results”. As an example, the use of simple email threading had led to a one-third reduction in the documents for review in one case. More sophisticated technologies, such as categorisation and clustering, are used where warranted in, for example, a large investigation with tight timeframes.

Owen Bourke said that there is now greater awareness in Australia of the potential for using technology to address legal and business issues, both among external clients and within the firm. At the time of our interview, there had recently been two cases upholding the use of predictive coding / technology-assisted review in Australia, and the State of Victoria had implemented a new technology practice note, called Practice Note SC GEN5 Guidelines for the Use of Technology (see my article here for these).

These things, Owen Bourke said, had helped encourage other activity, including positive and constructive discussions about the use of technology in a range of matters.

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About Chris Dale

I have been an English solicitor since 1980. I run the e-Disclosure Information Project which collects and comments on information about electronic disclosure / eDiscovery and related subjects in the UK, the US, AsiaPac and elsewhere
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