An Application to the Design of a Legal Information System
Ovidiu Vasutiu
, Youssef Amghar
, David Jouve
and Jean-Marie Pinon
Laboratoire d'InfoRmatique en Images et Systèmes d'information – INSA de Lyon, France
Caisse Nationale des Allocations Familiales – Cnedi Rhône-Alpes, France
Keywords: System design process, legal document, document retrieval, document consistency, UML, XML.
Abstract: Nowadays information systems are more and more important for all types of organizations. To deal with the
complex technologies available, IT specialists use proven best practices inspired from more comprehensive
process frameworks for software and systems delivery or implementation and for effective project
management. Methods developed to support theses processes produce many different heterogeneous
resources (design documents and models, planning, project prototypes, etc...). Due to the continuously
changing reality, designers will always have to consider new user and stakeholders requirements and go
back to the starting design case for an update. In this paper we present an organizational and technical
infrastructure for a collaborative design process management system which automates mechanisms to assure
the coherence and consistency of these heterogeneous and continuously updated resources..
Organizations are turning out to be more and more
dependent on Information Systems. At the moment
where IT technologies are becoming more complex,
where many frameworks and architectures models
are available, the need of tools to support the
Information System design, delivery and
implementation process is very important. This
design process take in consideration large teams and
deal with many different skills and profiles: users
and stakeholders define the functional requirements,
software and technical architects elaborate the
system architecture, developers build it, designer
package it, etc… Each one of these actors provides a
different view and knowledge on the system. Their
functional, technical and organisational knowledge,
while representing different aspects of the same
system, will be expressed by heterogeneous
resources: documents and models in different
formats, and, finally, by applications’ source code.
Methods such as RUP (IBM, 2007), MSF
(Microsoft, 2007) or Extreme Programming
(Larman, 2003), have been developed to support this
process using different phases (i.e. inception,
elaboration, construction, transition) each one
producing different deliverables: documents,
models. Due to the complexity of the systems,
incremental and iterative approaches are used. The
system is then delivered into sets of iterations
producing or updating deliverables (design
resources, documents, models). Information Systems
need to follow, to adapt to a continuously changing
reality. Therefore the system’s knowledge is
building all the way during the design and
implementation phases making it very important to
assure the coherence of the design resources.
Furthermore, in many domains (legal organisations,
banking, e-government, etc.) it is also very
important to guarantee the traceability all the way
through the process; each component, each update
has to be related to a user or functional requirement.
In this paper we propose a system based on
knowledge management to control and to guaranty
the coherence and the consistency of theses
heterogeneous resources (documents and models)
and the information system.
The work reported in this paper has been carried
out in the context of the Caisse Nationale des
Allocations Familiales (Cnaf), the French Family
Benefits Office, whose main mission is applying the
law in the process of evaluating each family’s
allowances. Therefore, our proposition was
implemented in this particular domain and
organization. However, it is not restricted to the
Vasutiu O., Amghar Y., Jouve D. and Pinon J. (2008).
In Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems - DISI, pages 492-496
DOI: 10.5220/0001708204920496
legal domain. It contains generic elements that can
be either directly reused or extended so as to
represent specifics of various domains of interest.
The legislation of our organization’s domain is
particularly complex. The organization has to deal
with a massive amount of legal documents (more
than 100,000 references) and numerous legal
updates (over two legal updates every week).
Considering the important number of beneficiaries
and the large amount of information to be processed,
the workload of this organization overwhelms
human capacities forcing it to use the computer’s
assistance, a Legal Information System.
For any legal sub-domain, the set of relevant
legal documents is partially structured (Jouve et al,
2001), documents can be laid out in a pyramidal
structure according to their legal importance, Figure
1. The highly operational degree documents are at
the lowest level of the pyramid. They are used for
the Legal Information System design.
eg al wei ght
ocument kind
De cree
Mi ni st eri al circ ul ar
Internal reference text
Technical instruction
Or igi n
ational Assembly
Council of minister
Gove rmen t de
Or ganiza ti on le vel
Or ganiza ti on le vel
oftware implementation of
the legislation
Conception models
Func tional documents
User documentation
IS Com p 1
IS Co mp 3 IS Comp 2
IS Comp.
IS C omp
Figure 1: Legal and design resources hierarchy.
Due to the legal context of each country,
legislation is constantly added, deleted or modified,
like an informational flow in perpetual evolution.
One change at a given level of the legal pyramid will
have repercussions to all beneath levels until the
lowest level is reached, affecting the information
systems components that are directly and strongly
connected to the legal domain.
Information Technology specialists use
comprehensive process frameworks, providing then
with proven best practices for software and systems
delivery and effective project management. For
example the RUP - Rational Unified Process
proposes a project design life cycle in 4 phases:
inception, elaboration, construction, transition. In
each phase different actors (users, designer,
architects and trainers) take part producing
heterogeneous resources (analysis documents, UML
(OMG, 2006) models). This resources are
interconnected and they express the same knowledge
but on different points of view.
Figure 2: Phases and heterogeneous deliverables.
When user requirements change, the update has
repercussions to all others design documents. There
are solutions for document management systems and
collaborative work; others solutions for UML
modelling; and even for requirements management,
but not many solutions control the coherence and
consistency of both kinds of resources. In this paper,
we propose a logical and technical architecture for
the design resources management and production
environment of our organization.
3.1 Structuring Documents
XML(W3C, 2006) describes the logical structure of
the documents using mark-up, enabling both an
explicit representation of the given information and
a description of relations between modelled
information and documents sub-structures.
Furthermore the benefit of mark-up languages is that
they allow a clear separation between data and its
XML documents are stored in a native XML
databases which uses the XML document as the
fundamental unit of storage having better
performance on most of the rich content document
queries (Runapongsa et al., 2006).
to the Design of a Legal Information System
3.2 Document Integrity
Research projects in literature address document
integrity in a document repository based on link
integrity check focusing their work on the intranet
environment (Amghar & Chbeir, 2003), others
(Ashman, 2000) summed up all measures in two
categories. (1) preventive solutions : forbidding
changes, versioning, embedded links, external links,
link attributes and (2) correctives solutions : forward
mechanism, Universal resource names, relative
references, utilization of the paradigm of agents.
3.3 Knowledge Representation
Many scientific works managed to accomplish
models for the representation and manipulation of
legal documents (Wright, 1963). David Jouve (Jouve
et al., 2003) addressed the issues caused by the
constantly changing legislation proposing a solution
to the need to efficiently control a legal domain:
impact studies, incoherence and conflicts detection.
Others related works interested on the
management of human knowledge within the design
process, the collaborative work and knowledge
sharing (Rodríguez et al., 2004) and the
organizational memory (Rus and Lindvall, 2002).
We propose to use knowledge management for
consistency and coherence control mechanisms
within heterogeneous resources.
Our answer to the issues presented here is an XML
based solution for a production and management
environment for information system design
resources. The environment developed at the Cnaf
has an N-layer type of architecture.
4.1 Meta-Model of the DMIS
The design document referential embeds a set of
Document collections. Each collection is provided
with a set of descriptors defining all the types of
contained resource: document types (i.e. legal
document, analysis, design, etc.), asset types,
reference types… The collection meta-description
contains taxonomies, docflow definitions and
references types.
4.2 Basic Features
a) Document format and structure
To avoid redundancy, two structures are used:
the document persistence structure - content stored
at only one place, enabling document archiving,
indexing, and retrieval -, and the document
presentation structure (user ended documents
containing richer and more detailed information, an
aggregation from different persistent documents).
All documents respect a generic structure having
two top elements: the meta element (all document
meta-data: document type, ID, version, revision and
edition identifiers, origin, state and docflow history)
and the content element (contains the information).
The system uses a native XML database to store
persistence structures. For backward or external
interoperability raisons it can also wrap in an XML
structure any other content.
b) Version and revision management
The stable reference documentation is stored
with the “reference” version in the reference space.
When a new user requirement occurs a new editing
workspace is created containing documents to be
added, modified or deleted (Figure 3) in order to
respond to that requirement. The new workspace is
created starting from the reference space therefore in
each workspace we find new versions of the
reference documents. This new versions follow
theirs document editing life-cycle leading to
different revisions. At any time, editors can
synchronize, using a merge tool, their working
version of the document with the reference version
of the document (the public version of the
Figure 3: Multiple parallel document editing workspaces.
Once a working version of the application is
validated all the modifications will be integrated in
the reference space, updating it. This situation
sometimes leads to multiple parallel versions of the
ICEIS 2008 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
application having parallel versions of the
application’s documentation.
c) Resource identification
Knowledge is scattered all over the document
corpus thus preserving link integrity of the document
repository is a crucial problem. A solution to
precisely addressing a resource is the use of
Universal Resource Names or URNs. A revision of a
document is precisely identified by the unique
document identifier, its version and revision number.
It is referenced by a storage independent URN
formed as follows:
collection-name : resource-kind :
resource-type : resource-id
[: version : revision]
Where the resource-kind describe the kind (
document, image, an external resource), resource-
type (data description document, class description
documents, legal document, etc…); resource-id: is
the unique identifier given by the database.
This identification allows us to have a unique
reference model where a resource can be moved
without affecting the references pointing it. URN
resolution rules will identify the physical document,
taking in consideration if the version and/or revision
are specified or not. Documents with the current or
reference version and those in the last revision are
privileged. The advantages of this link resolution
algorithm are that a link can be defined to always
point out to the last revision of a document even if
the target document evolves, or it can be strictly
forced to point out to a specific revision number,
even if obsolete.
d) Document Addressing Model
A reference is encoded as an XML element with
a set of attributes that is mapped to the URN of the
<ref col="sair-daf" kind="docobject"
type="tache" res="00000003"
[ver=”REF” rev=”0001” nodes=”id1 id2”
The col, kind, type, res define the URN of the
referenced resource. The optional nodes attribute can
address a specific sub-fragment of the document.
Referenced document’s label, description, type are
retrieved. Sub-fragments identified by the nodes
attribute, content defined by the ref-type are
included in the presentation of the referencing
document. All the information concerning the target
document is stored within so that any update is
automatically available. We can identify two
categories of reference types: (1) simple reference: a
document points out to another document implying a
simple link, (2) specialized reference: attribute ref-
type is present defining the semantic of the link. This
semantic defines the transformations to be made
during loading to build the presentation document.
e) Docflow
Each document at a given moment is associated
to a state in its lifecycle (specific to each document
type). User contextual menu functions are defined
according to user’s authorizations and document
state. An internal docflow engine listens to external
(function activation, service call, etc...) or internal
(document transitions) events that might (if all
conditions are validated) launch a transition to
another state. Actions can be executed on in/out
f) Information retrieval
The retrieval mechanism is very flexible
allowing users to specify a search expression
(containing multiple keywords or phrases) and/or
document expected metadata (identifier, document
type, current state, date).
4.3 Design Document Drafting
a) Unique referential
The resource addressing feature and link
resolution algorithm allow us to reduce redundancy
without losing any valuable performance. A link can
either point to the last revision of a document, or it
can be strictly forced to point out to a specific
revision number, even if obsolete. So documents in
parallel editions workspaces (different versions) can
be referenced without any interference. Using the
“ref-type” attribute, we can define meaningful links
between two documents (i.e. origin of the document,
knowledge dependency or similarity) or how content
from a document is included in the presentation
structure of another document.
b) Drafting process management
Responsibility in the design process is often
shared between many actors. Docflow mechanisms
allow us to define the automation of the drafting
process, the roles of each participant, the flow of
documents and information, in whole or part, from
one decisional instance or state to another for action.
c) Knowledge and information traceability
Meaningful links allow us to trace the usage of
the knowledge and its propagation while meta-data
allow us to trace evolutions, contributors,
contributions and updates of the documents.
Software engineers use a specific process to create
the application components needed to respond to
each user or functional requirement. The history of
to the Design of a Legal Information System
each document can give us the information needed
to retrace back all the interventions on the document
to the linked document fragment expressing that
requirement. Therefore we can define a new
specialization of the reference relation, the “user
requirement implementation relation”.
d) Dependency and impact analysis
Due to traceability in our system we can identify
the documents that are in a way related to a
requirement text and that need to be updated with
each evolution, giving an estimate of the impact
(Vasutiu et al., 2006). In our case as Legal
Information System design documents are related to
the law, it allows us to link legal requirements back
to corresponding design artefacts and code.
The document and model management system
presented here and implemented at the Cnaf, while
adapted to the particularities of the legal domain,
responds to the generic demands expressed.
For instance coherence is assured by the
reference and traceability mechanisms. References
can allow us to avoid redundancy, often present
especially in legal documents. Knowledge
equivalence reference allow us to identify
documents, although different but expressing the
same knowledge. The complexity of the knowledge
transformation within the design process is managed
by the docflow and version/revision control features.
To specifically develop this infrastructure took
over one year. The system was tested on a 30,000
design document collection which represents almost
30% of the document collection. All the feed-back
received, after a user validation phase, shows that
even if the new mechanisms implied more
constraints in the work process, they help to reduce
the risk of error. Traceability helped users to
precisely identify the documents that need to be
updated and version/revision control allowed then to
constantly be able to control changes and evolutions.
Therefore the next perspective of our research is
to estimate the whole area of impact of a user,
functional or legal requirement using a dependency
and impact analysis on both documentary area and
on the information system.
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ICEIS 2008 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems