/* */

12 November 2007

Alternative DOCEX models

We have frequently mentioned our aversion to involving lawyers in intelligence analysis in these pages. It is our strong belief – confirmed by countless personal experiences as well as professional anecdotes and case studies provided by others – that the current model of legal education irreversibly introduces a mental model and mindset which is inimical to the successful practice of intelligence as a profession – particularly any form of creative, strategic intelligence against non-traditional targets.

However, we unfortunately find that more and more young lawyers are entering the field. The overabundance of new graduates from an increasing number of law schools has produced more candidates than the traditional job sources within the legal profession can provide for. These graduates typically carry with them a crushing level of school loan debt, and to the inexperienced HR type, look like they have overlapping skills in the areas of research, argumentation, and writing. Despite surface appearances, the model of legal argumentation – oriented around shaping perceptions for advocacy in an adversarial setting - is profoundly different from that required to penetrate mysteries (as opposed to solving puzzles), and to piece together contradictory and constantly changing raw information into a coherent narrative designed to inform decision-maker options rather than persuade to a specific course of action.

This does not mean we are unwilling to keep tabs on what the folks in the legal field are up to, however. Via the fine folks at Volokh Conspiracy, we note an interesting story in the Washington City Paper regarding another higher order effect of the current glut of attorneys – legal temping. What interests us is not the tale of woe relayed by the newly minted and underemployed members of the Bar, but rather the manner in which the profession has sought to solve a problem which is in a very rough way equivalent to the document exploitation challenges faced by the IC.

DOCEX (now DOMEX) has long languished as a less than priority focus despite its vital contributions to key accounts. Our colleague Michael Tanji has written previously on potential for new collaborative models to attack large DOCEX / DOMEX tasks, and the resistance to those models that has been encountered even in theoretical discussion alone. No matter whether one agrees with the Army of Analysts model or not, DOCEX is an area deeply in need of the application new tradecraft and new methodologies – enabled by technology more current than the field driven database designs that have characterized most exploitation software to date. It says something profound – and none of it good – when it is a law enforcement support organization that can lay claim to what may be the most sophisticated standing DOCEX capability in the United States (though sophisticated only by comparison, and never mind about the hard target language requirements…)

We do think that the large scale legal discovery processes deserve a second look for potential adaptation by those engaged in DOCEX/DOMEX tasks. This is not because we wish to involve more lawyers in the community, but rather because there has to be a better way of organizing the kind of labour that these tasks require. While we are leery of any effort that seeks to create a machine by process, we are always willing to learn about methodologies and approaches that might better serve the task at hand.

Labels: , , ,