In line with our mission to improve access to court records with legal technology, we’re pleased to share UniCourt CEO, Josh Blandi’s new article published in Attorney at Work on the use of APIs. Josh’s article, APIs for Lawyers: Saving Time Through Automation, answers two core questions surrounding APIs in the legal industry: What are they, and how can law firms use them? Josh details that APIs are data pipelines that help transfer information throughout countless industries and business environments, and that for law firms, APIs can be best used to automate data entry and streamline internal processes dependent on outside data sources, such as court data.
Here below is an excerpt from the introduction of Josh’s article:
When it comes to automating rote tasks from research to document review, APIs can save law firms time and money through real-time access to legal data. If you’ve never heard of an API before, you’re certainly not alone — but whether you know it or not, you’re likely benefiting from countless APIs interacting with apps on your smartphone and favorite websites.
Here, we’ll review the basics of APIs — what they are, why they matter, and how you can use them in your practice to save time and money. We’ll also share two specific examples of how lawyers are using court records to automate data entry and boost business development efforts.
What Are APIs?
At their most basic level, Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, are a form of technology that allows different software programs (essentially, applications or machines) to communicate.
To illustrate how this works, consider an ATM machine. Worldwide, ATMs are interfaces to a service: a bank service that allows consumers to deposit and withdraw money. In this case, the service is the financial transaction that happens when you slide your card, and the individual machines are consumers of that service. But the machine isn’t what is ultimately powering the transaction — it’s the institution that authorized the machine’s existence.
APIs are similar. They are the interface — the access point — to powerful software resources. Of course, APIs are different in that they involve communication between applications — there is no human-to-machine interaction. But, through the use of an API, one system or service can easily access the computing power and resources of another system. One application gathers data, then outsources it to another service through an API. For instance, on the Zillow app, you can see a map of a particular home’s location and navigate to it. This is possible because the Zillow app outsources functionality to Google Maps by way of a request to one of Google’s APIs. The two apps would know little about each other, but the API would provide a set of standards (like a “contract” between the two applications) that would enable them to make requests.
As a real-world example, think about ordering a pizza online.
The pizza shop’s website uses an API to send your credit card information to a remote service that verifies it. Then, the remote app sends a response to the pizza site confirming that it is okay to proceed with the order. You, the hungry consumer, only see one interface: the website. Nonetheless, many different applications are working together to process the transaction that will ultimately end with a pizza at your door. In other words, the API integration happens without you, the consumer, having to intervene at all.
This consumer benefit makes APIs incredibly useful. Since the technology does the communication for you, you only have to rely on one interface, rather than the several that are actually involved.
But this efficiency doesn’t just apply when you’re house hunting or ordering dinner. It can help you manage your practice, too.
You can read the full article here on Attorney At Work.