BT summariser may lighten workload

HARD-PRESSED lawyers could soon benefit from a computer program which automatically summarises texts.

The software, developed by BT Laboratories, includes an Information Agent which searches texts stored on a computer and selects those of most interest to the operator, sorting them in what it 'thinks' will be the order of priority to the reader. The summariser then abridges the text to a fraction of its length without, it is claimed, losing significant detail.

BT developer Keith Preston says: "Its relevance is in helping the user decide which of a multitude of articles they wish to read by providing a summary. It is not a substitute for reading the whole article but an aid to deciding which to pursue."

The summariser is still a prototype but top firms are already showing interest in its application. Librarian Betsy Snyder, of Linklaters & Paines, is enthusiastic about the idea and says firm librarians will discuss the project.

A spokesperson at Clifford Chance says: "It sounds an interesting idea and as if it could be useful, but we would like a demonstration before we could make a decision."