Industry & Country
Legal & Professional Information Services, Bulgaria
• Bulgarian Academy Of Sciences: Linguistic Modelling Department
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“.... we are always the first on the local market, which is a real advantage and gives us the opportunity to invest in new products ....”
“.... great speed costs money, but it is only the law that prevent us to be faster ....”
“.... there is a lack of concrete results from the research sector .... but we understand their difficulties ...”
Mr. Sergey Yankov
Managing Director, APIS Hristovich Ltd
This success story focuses on APIS Hristovich Ltd, a pioneer in design, development and maintenance of legal information retrieval systems and services for the Bulgarian market. The company, which recently extended its applications coverage to include additional tools and services for public administrations, export/import specialist companies and the small-to-medium business sector, focuses on providing up-to-date legal, administrative, financial and trade-related information to its customers.
The company has established an impressive customer base that comprises nearly 4,500 organisations - including almost all ministries, administrative departments and central government agencies, more than 80% of the bodies of the judiciary system, and more than a half of the local government bodies. 71 dealers provide marketing, sales, and customer support to over 11,800 APIS user sites with more than 27,000 individual users.
As of September 2002, APIS, a private company managed by its owner Mr. Vassil Hristovich, employed 101 full-time staff. More than 100 lawyers, linguists, IT experts, and financial advisors have also worked as consultants or part-time employees.
APIS Information Retrieval Software
APIS proprietary software provides an environment for developing and implementing full-text information retrieval systems in various application areas, together with tools for reliable and timely database updates. Updates are managed by the database maintenance unit, and distributed via the Internet, e-mail or off-line on magnetic media.
The APIS legal information database system contains the full texts of regulatory acts in Bulgarian legislation, including all amendments and supplements. The system also provides decisions and rulings from judicial practice and annotations of articles in specialised publications, such as the State Gazette. It also supports standard procedures for user requests and extended search using logical operators, synonyms, word forms, various filters, and an index of previously saved requests, together with options for editing and formatting results.
Database enquiries are implemented through text lemmatisation using a large lexical database, in this case a grammatical dictionary of the Bulgarian language. Lemmatisation - the process of identifying the basic form for a given word - is done both on the query and on the text base. Another feature is searching within a family of words, where the system extends the processing by including the hierarchy of synonyms, associated words, syntactical paraphrases, and generic notions related to a given search term.
For example, if the user enter house, the system will find all documents containing building, home, construction, construction companies and so on. These family of word sets are updated, supported and maintained semi-automatically since a new word or a new relation in the family cannot be obtained automatically.
New methods of searching are used in the latest version of the APIS system, which contains a continuously maintained hierarchy of terms. When a new document is processed, a terminological map of it is created and matched against the whole terminological database.
Document processing also includes standard linguistic tools such as the identification of all possible occurrences of terms in the text, as well as special tools for searching of ontological links. An expert module that searches stored documents with similar content to one being currently processed, where the degree of similarity is determined by the match of the terms describing the contents, is integrated in all APIS products.
Path To Market
In 1996, APIS created "APIS +++", a Windows product with a database of legal documents classified by different criteria, which provided search facilities using words, part of words or phrases found in the query and the document. The company aimed to meet increasing needs in the local market for legal information services. At that time, few normative documentation databases were available in Bulgaria and market demand was increasing rapidly.
The company also developed a strong user-oriented policy to both differentiate itself from competitors and maximise customer satisfaction. APIS prides itself on keeping to deadlines, and users receive updates for the Bulgarian State Gazette, issued every Tuesday and Friday, on their desktops those very mornings. The database maintenance team gets the new editions the previous night and updates the systems very quickly. "This great speed costs money, but it is only the law that prevent us to be faster", said Mr. Yankov.
APIS +++ opened the door for other companies to develop similar products - today around 10 information retrieval system providers service the local market. "While talking about innovations, we are always the first on the local market, which is a real advantage and gives us the opportunity to invest in new products", says Mr. Sergey Yankov, APIS Managing Director.
APIS continued to improve and upgrade the original system and in 1998, it launched APIS 4, a new version of the legislative information system, which integrated new methods for document processing. After a further modification, APIS 4.1, the company developed a variety of additional products on its already established technological base - including APIS Register Plus, APIS Globus, APIS Finance, APIS Vreme and APIS Trade Expert.
In November 2002, the company launched a new generation of its products, the so-called integrated platform APIS 5. This new generation has three main dimensions -an integrated system with a unified gateway to all products, an improved user interface, and enlarged and enriched database content. APIS 5 contains new versions of the previous products and some of the databases are united. There are three main databases in the system and each of them contains different modules:
The first database contains APIS Law (previous APIS 4.1), APIS Procedures, APIS Finance, APIS Trade Expert, APIS Globus and APIS Vreme.
Every product in this platform is a rich documentation database. APIS Law is a full-text legal information system that includes the current legal system of the Republic of Bulgaria. For the very first time, it contains texts of all laws and their motivations, commission reports and stenograms of the plenary sessions.
The other products are more focused to the customers specific needs. APIS Globus offers updated information on the legal status of foreign juridical and physical entities in Bulgaria. APIS Finance helps users in their everyday work with taxation and tax mechanisms, accountancy social security and health insurance, wages and pensions, government and council budgeting and extra-budgetary accounts, banking, stock exchange, shares, and investments.
APIS Vreme has three main functions:
to give an exact, objective and extensive expert analysis of legislation changes at the same time as normative acts are published in the State Gazette;
to inform users of all legal terms operative under Bulgarian legislation - by calendar days and by normative acts;
and to give advance answers to important questions arising due to changes in legislation.
The last product in this database - APIS Trade Expert, provides all the information required at each stage of foreign trade deals. It features a combined capability for simultaneous processing of text and formatted data, inserted in tables or in parts of graphic images of documents. Users can outline their own strategy for a particular deal by simulating it and defining its specific parameters.
The second database contains APIS Law and APIS Procedures.
This is the most popular database, and it provides a useful combination of the whole legal system and ready-made solutions for a variety of administrative and legal services. In addition to APIS Law, APIS Procedures contains updated information on the administrative, judicial and customs procedures, notarial proceedings and labour legislation. It also contains examples of various instruments including contracts, attorneys, wills, and title deeds.
Third database contains only APIS Register plus because its database is too large and not connected with the other products.
APIS Register Plus includes all data structures from the previous APIS Register, plus identification data for registered companies, employers and self-employed persons, and other bodies - name, statistics identification code, tax number, owner, associates, personal identification numbers, address and main activity; together with candidates for presidential, parliamentary and local elections.
It also contains all publications in the unofficial section of the State Gazette from 1989 up to the present day, including corporate information, the commercial register, and balance sheets and company reports published in the State Gazette or in specialised business and daily press. Users also have access to information concerning exhibitions organised in the country, licenses and permits issued, list of lawyers and notaries in Bulgaria, and other reference information.
One of the planned system improvements is to refine the searching process with algorithms for machine learning. An ontological base will also be created and supported in conjunction with standard linguistic tools. These tasks are quite complex, and APIS has already faced a number of difficult problems. "It is quite strange that there is a lack of concrete results from the research sector even though there are quite a number of language technology research units in Bulgaria - but we understand their difficulties," says Mr. Yankov. However, the company has already found solutions, and regularly stimulates research by engaging experts from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
This success story is based on an interview with Mr. Sergey Yankov, Managing director of APIS Company Ltd. We would like to thank him very much for his co-operation and for the information he provided.
Full text versions of the success story are available for viewing or download in MS Word [48 KB] or PDF [36 KB] formats.