5 tools irreversibly changing legal research

Technologically challenged lawyers struggle to believe that I’ve given up my hard copy research materials. In fact, my office is completely devoid of any books. That looseleaf services still exist – yet alone require a librarian or secretary to manually update them every quarter – is bewildering.

Those who persevere thumbing through tomes and who can’t pinpoint search using Boolean logic will eventually realise there’s a faster and more accurate way of legal research. The ones that don’t will find themselves outcompeted and out of a job.  

But there’s a new wave of legal research tools which are threatening to disrupt even online legal research databases.

In this article we examine a new breed of artificially intelligent legal research solutions.

1.  ROSS Intelligence

ROSS is an artificially intelligent legal research assistant built on IBM’s Watson supercomputer. Capable of handling ‘natural language’ questions ROSS returns cited legal answers instantly. Currently only available in the US market, some of the country’s largest firms including BakerHostetler, Latham & Watkins, Dentons and K&L Gates have already deployed ROSS.

Early performance tests involving ROSS are extremely encouraging. A Blue Hill Research report comparing a panel of 16 legal researchers against ROSS found that ROSS allowed:

  1. an increase in information retrieval quality when compared to Boolean and natural language search (for example, by finding 42.9% more relevant authorities); and
  2. a reduction in total research time by 30.3% over Boolean search alone and 22.3% over natural language search alone.

With such efficiencies being derived there’s a clear business case for deployment by firms outside the US. Could you compete if your competitors began completing legal research 30% faster?

2.  Blue J Legal

Touted as a next generation legal research tool for lawyers and accountants, Blue J Legal together with Thomson Reuters, offers Tax Foresight. Using machine learning techniques to identify patterns in case law, Tax Foresight analyses thousands of tax cases to simulate Court judgments.  It provides answers, links to relevant cases and tailored explanations of its analysis.

Current use cases include:

  1. determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor, residency for tax purposes and deductibility of home office expenses;
  2. classifying gains or losses from real estate or securities trading as being on revenue account or capital account; and
  3. characterising kinds of expenditure on tangible and intangible property.

With internal testing finding that Tax Foresight is able to return a correct predictions in more than 90% of cases, there’s little wonder that many big name clients including Deloitte, PwC and Stikeman Elliott have already subscribed. While only available in Canada at present, there is significant potential for future expansion.

3.  Casetext

Casetext’s free automated legal research assistant CARA searches a database of over 10 million US cases, statutes, regulations and hundreds of thousands of articles published by practising lawyers to find similar cases that are on point. Working through a simple online document upload feature, Casetext suggests any time you produce a document that cites legal authority, you will benefit from CARA – internal memos, letters, client updates, and the list goes on.

Suggested use cases include uploading:

  1. submissions or briefs to find cases you’ve missed or that the other side might have deliberately omitted; and
  2. templates or precedents as an easy method of updating them.

With over 500,000 monthly users, Casetext is fast becoming one of the most popular legal resources.

4.  Ravel Law

In collaboration with Harvard Law School’s Caselaw Access Project, Ravel is making access to American caselaw open and free.

Powerful analytics and data visualisation tools enable lawyers to find, contextualize and interpret information.  Legal data become legal insights. Ravel’s unique ‘Judge Analytics’ is designed for litigators who want to understand how their judge thinks, writes and rules, as well as who and what influences them.  And the ‘Case Analytics’ tool finds key passages of judgments showing how each page has been cited by other cases over time.

Boasting other services such as court analytics, research tools and specialised data services, Ravel is one to watch keenly.

5.  Fastcase

Claiming to ‘bring the best results to the top of the list every time’, Fastcase integrates citation analysis with search results to find instantly the seminal case for which you are looking .

Impressive data visualisation tools show how results are distributed over time, their relevance and citation frequency.  And its ‘Authority Check’ function easily identifies later-citing cases and allows you to filter them in various ways.

Over 500,000 lawyers having access to Fastcase. Definitely keep an eye out for future expansion of this product.

6.  Other noteworthy tools

  • Bestlaw: An ‘app to add features that Westlaw and Lexis forgot’. Bestlaw is a browser extension designed to make legal research easier through a series of simple innovations. Jump between footnotes and the body without losing your place, instantly look up information about a case from other internet sources and more.
  • Ailira: Your Artificially Intelligent Legal Information Research Assistant, Ailira, offers both legal advice and legal research functionality. Initially developed by South Australian tax lawyer Adrian Cartland to respond to research questions in Australian tax law, Ailira is now being deployed to advise victims of domestic violence after receiving a $15,000 South Australian government grant.
  • Knomos: A ‘visual navigator for the law’. Knomos aims to make legal search easier through data visualisation.