Emily Dies receives Precedent Innovation Award for developing unique online reference manual

03 December 2019

Emily Dies, a first-year associate in Gowling WLG's Hamilton office, has received a Precedent Innovation Award for her role in developing an innovative online manual used by law clerks at major financial institutions.

The awards recognize lawyers and firms who have upended the status quo - to better serve clients, improve the legal workplace or help increase the public's access to justice.

The problem Dies and her colleagues set out to solve is a common one. Throughout the year, financial institutions receive thousands of third-party demands for payment out of customer accounts. Responses to these demands must be consistent, which is challenging given the myriad jurisdictions, laws and types of accounts in play. Typically, law clerks must consult static legal manuals for guidance when responding to these demands.

Using an open-source wiki application - and with a major financial institution as a test case - Dies and her team pioneered an "attractive, interactive and intuitive online manual" that quickly directs personnel to the legal information and model language most suitable for each scenario.

Information is centralized, easy to update and can be accessed immediately from multiple entry points. Because the manual is browser-readable, it is easy to transfer and can be employed with minimal software.

The finished product is similar to a traditional manual, but with far greater functionality, says Dies, who practises in the Business Law Department. It's also perfectly suited for the law clerks who engage in this kind of work every day.

"Right now, law clerks are often relying on Word documents that are close to 100 pages," says Dies. "It's almost like you can't get an answer unless you already know what it is, which is entirely backwards."

Dies credits Gowling WLG with giving her the time and space necessary to flesh-out the particulars.

"It's really cool that the firm let me explore this area for several months when I first started," she says. "It's great to be recognized for this project, but I'm already thinking about what comes next."

Partner and leader of Innovation Initiatives, Mark Tamminga, conceived the product, while partner Dom Glavota supervised the legal work and supported the end product.

Stephanie Harvey, a senior associate in Financial Services and Recovery Services, was also involved in a supervisory role, overseeing the legal research and collaborating on the design.

Consistently ranked as one of the most innovative legal businesses worldwide, Gowling WLG is a firm at the cutting edge of the legal sector, with innovation at its heart. Whether adopting AI-led solutions, utilizing blockchain and smart contracts or revolutionizing recruitment strategies, the firm challenges the status quo of an industry in transition.