Category Archives: Legal Research
In what will be considered a seminal article of the 2010s in law library literature, The Algorithm as a Human Artifact by Susan Nevelow Mart, Associate Professor and Director of the Law Library, University of Colorado Law School, has been published by LLJ. From the abstract:
The results of using the search algorithms in Westlaw, Lexis Advance, Fastcase, Google Scholar, Ravel, and Casetext are compared. Six groups of humans created six different algorithms, and the results are a testament to the variability of human problem solving. That variability has implications both for researching and teaching research.
Highly recommended. — Joe
In a major coup for both the LexBlog network and Fastcase, Fastcase has integrated the LexBlog network’s bloggers commentaries into Fastcase 7. Now, a Fastcase searcher can access contemporary analysis on legal developments in addition to linkage to HeinOnline’s library of legal periodicals. “We’re pushing hard to add the best secondary sources for our members,” said Fastcase CEO Ed Walters. “The LexBlog network is a platform for some of the nation’s leading experts in law to report and synthesize legal news and developments. And the collection of every day’s LexBlog posts reads like the most compelling legal newspaper in America.” Quoting from Bob Ambrogi’s LawSite’s post. — Joe
One of the highlights of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) conference in Austin this year was the Innovation Tournament which pitted three librarians’ tech innovations against each other. With two prizes, each worth $2,500, up for grabs, the competition was pretty tough. There was a scanning project management innovation, a Virtual Reality presentation preparedness tool, and an innovative ChatBot for legal information assistance. The ChatBot really caught my attention as something that I would love to test out on a local level. — Greg Lambert, Now I want a Chatbot, 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, July 27, 2017
Now Greg, you and I can test drive a new chatbot that walks a user through a basic reference interview. According to In Custodias Legis, the new chatbot can connect a user to primary legal sources, law library research guides and foreign law reports. The chatbot can also respond to a limited number of text commands. Go to the Law Library of Congress Facebook page to try the chatbot.
H/T to Gary Price’s InfoDocket report. — Joe
Bloomberg Law announced a new research feature, Points of Law, a little over a week ago. I’ve been playing around with it using the ATV injury problem I created for teaching online legal research concepts. In summary, An ATV rider was injured while riding on someone else’s private property without permission. The problem called for the researcher to identify relevant cases where assumption of risk was a viable defense and collect them for later analysis. The jurisdiction is New York.
Let me explain a little about Points of Law before I dive into my experience with it. Bloomberg’s press release describes the feature:
Points of Law offers a more efficient way to conduct case law research. Through the application of machine learning to Bloomberg Law’s database of 13 million court opinions, Points of Law highlights language critical to the court’s holding, links this language to governing statements of law and relevant on-point case law.
Bloomberg Law provides context – connecting keyword search results to governing statements of law – and unparalleled breadth of coverage, generating one million Points of Law from our state and federal court opinion database.
I found the press release accurate. I used one of the sample searches I set up for the research problem, <all-terrain vehicle and assumption of risk>. The case law I expected to see in the list of results was there. Some of the cases, not all, had a Points of Law icon on the right side of the text. Clicking that highlights text that the AI in the database considers to be significant. My search highlighted what I would describe as a combination of black letter law on a keyword related topic or significant points on how the courts treat that topic. The focus here was on assumption of risk, obviously, as and all-terrain vehicle is not a legal concept.
Here are some example results extracted from Marcano v. City of New York, 296 A.D.2d 43, 743 N.Y.S.2d 456 (App Div, 1st Dept 2002):
Generally, the issue of assumption of risk is a question of fact for the jury.” (Lamey v Foley, 188 AD2d 157, 163-164 .)
“The policy underlying this tort rule is intended to facilitate free and vigorous participation in athletic activities.” (Benitez v New York City Bd. of Educ., 73 NY2d 650, 657 .) [Discussing how assumption of the risk in sports is handled by the courts. – MG]
Because of the factual nature of the inquiry, whether a danger is open and obvious is most often a jury question * * *.”
What I found most interesting about using Points of Law is how viewing multiple extracts informed me about assumption of risk without requiring a lot of lengthy analysis. Now, not all cases in the search results were useful in my context where an ATV rider was injured. At the same time, a researcher will find what they need to know conceptually about assumption of the risk as treated by the New York Courts. I assume that applies to other legal doctrines as well.
Another feature worth mentioning is that clicking on the highlighted phrase will open a side window that cites other cases expressing the same point of law (up to 10). There is also a button that shows a citation map of the Point:
Another button shows a list of opinions that expressed related concepts along with the Point text:
All in all, I think this is a nifty feature that researchers and litigators will actually use. I wonder if it will integrate with any of the current general search products on the market, as in “Hey Google, find me cases in New York State that discuss assumption of risk in the context of recreational activities.” If we now think that first year law students take the lazy route in legal research based on their Google use, just wait for the future to show up.
In the Not Everything is Perfect category, one case, Bierach v. Nichols, 248 A.D.2d 916, 669 N.Y.S.2d 988 (App Div, 3d Dept 1998), had one Point of Law listed but not highlighted in the text. It was short enough that I was able to guess what was the likely text that would have been highlighted. Oh well. –Mark
From the announcement:
The Federal Courts Web Archive, recently launched by the Library of Congress Web Archiving Team and the Law Library of Congress, provides retrospective archival coverage of the websites of the federal judiciary. … These sites contain a wide variety of resources prepared by federal courts, such as: slip opinions, transcripts, dockets, court rules, calendars, announcements, judicial biographies, statistics, educational resources, and reference materials. The materials available on the federal court websites were created to support a diverse array of users and needs, including attorneys and their clients, pro se litigants seeking to represent themselves, jurors, visitors to the court, and community outreach programs.
This collection includes the websites of the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Courts of Appeals, U.S. District Courts, and U.S. Bankruptcy Courts. This collection also includes the sites of the federal judiciary’s specialty courts, including the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, U.S. Court of International Trade, U.S. Tax Court, U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
H/T to Gary Price, InfoDocket. — Joe
From the press release:
An expansion of Violation Tracker, the first public database of corporate crime and misconduct in the United States, now makes it possible to access details of cases ranging from the big business scandals of the early 2000s during the Bush administration through those of the Trump administration to date. Violation Tracker, produced by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First, is available at no charge.
Violation Tracker’s entries, which come from more than 40 federal regulatory agencies and the major divisions of the U.S. Justice Department, cover a wide array of civil and criminal offenses, including: violations of environmental, workplace safety, drug safety, consumer product safety, and transportation safety regulations; banking, securities, and accounting fraud; price-fixing; collective bargaining and fair labor standards violations; employment discrimination; False Claims Act cases; foreign bribery; money laundering; and corporate tax evasion. Cases handled solely by individual U.S. Attorney offices and by state agencies will be added later.
H/T to Gary Price’s InfoDocket post. — Joe
ASU Ross-Blakley Law Library librarians Tara Mospan and Leslie A. Pardo created a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) LibGuide. The guide has sections on the history of DACA, recent DACA developments, a list of local agencies offering DACA assistance, and a list of national advocacy groups. — Joe
According to RNRMarketResearch.com, the legal analytics market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 32.7% and is projected to grow from $451.1 million in 2017 to $1.858 billion by 2022. But not all legal analytical products are created equally. On the AALL CS-SIS blog, Jonathan Germann demonstrates this by comparing Docket Navigator with Bloomberg Law. The latter comes up lacking. “As information professionals become regular users and gatekeepers of analytics tools, what information transparency is necessary for reliance?,” asks Germann. He proceeds to provide a transparency checklist. — Joe
Over 50% of large law firms license only Lexis or only Westlaw according to Feit Consulting. Some 22% of BigLaw firms with 750+ attorneys have gone solo provider. Michael Feit looks at the duopoly of our very expensive search vendors and the best route for individual firms in One of the largest law firms goes sole provider, does this finally foretell the Wexis monopoly demise in the largest segment?
Feit Consulting has been monitoring the sole provider trend for over a decade. As corporate clients pushed back on research costs, firms were not able to recover costs entirely. The affect on the bottom line pushed some firms to make the decision to go sole provider. The freedom of funds allows firms and organizations to purchase wish-list software and technology to enhance the delivery of legal information. While this has worked for some, the big question is whether it is the right decision for your firm or organization.
H/T to PinHawk’s Legal Administrator Daily — Joe
Under the Copyright Act, the Copyright Office is responsible for advising on certain questions of copyright law. This advice manifests itself in many forms. For instance, based on advice received from the Office, the Department of Justice files briefs in federal court on behalf of the federal government on issues of copyright law. In addition, the Copyright Office issues binding opinions on questions of copyright law to the Copyright Royalty Board. The Copyright Office has now published an archive of its briefs and legal opinions, which the Office intends to keep updated.
H/T Gary Price’s InfoDocket post. — Joe
Here’s how LN chief product officer Jamie Buckley described this development in this Venture Beat story.
“Something that we’re playing with in the lab, we actually have an internal chatbot where you can start asking it questions. It replies with either an answer or what it thinks might be what you’re looking for, and it also helps you filter the results,” Buckley said. “So you might get 100,000 results on the return, but it can help to understand where are some of the differences between the results and then ask you clarifying questions based on that.”
Marking the 50th anniversary of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, Fordham Law School has launched the 25th Amendment Archive. The archive marks the 50th anniversary of the amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which deals with presidential succession. Many of the archive’s materials are unavailable elsewhere. “The archive offers an interactive timeline of the history and events that prompted Congress to create the amendment, which provides legal mechanisms for handling presidential inabilities and filling vice presidential vacancies. In addition, the archive provides access to the legal and scholarly discourse on the 25th Amendment since its ratification on February 10, 1967.”
H/T to Gary Price’s InfoDocket post. — Joe
The court’s Public Information Office boasts that the site update includes “a more consistent menu structure, a more interactive calendar, faster access through Quick Links, improved page load times, and reduced page scrolling.” For example, instead of indicating only that the court will hear oral argument on a given day, the updated calendar provides case names for each argument day, with links to the docket entries and the questions at issue in each case.
The homepage also provides access to transcripts, audio and other case information.
Judging from the Twitter reactions of multiple Supreme Court practitioners and commentators, the most appealing element of the update – what John Elwood called a “tantalizing glimpse” – may be the light at the end of this newly-opened tunnel. According to the PIO, “the improvements will better support future digitization and the addition of electronic filing, and will enhance mobile access to information on the site.”
Global-Regulation has launched the Global Law Search Engine, a fee-based service that can be test driven for free right now. The search service claims to be the most comprehensive currently available because one can “[s]earch, find and compare laws from 90 countries using a user-friendly search engine that is aimed at legal information professionals, not lawyers. Due note this important caveat: “Our service is entirely run by computer algorithms. Translations are not human-vetted. There may be inaccuracies in information due to our algorithmic extraction of information. Always consult the official source when making use of legal information.” FAQ here.
H/T to beSpacific. — Joe
Two regularly updated research guides produced by the Congressional Research Service were updated in the last year.
Researching Current Federal Legislation and Regulations: A Guide to Resources for Congressional Staff (Feb. 6, 2017, RL33895) introduces congressional staff to selected governmental and nongovernmental sources that are useful in tracking and obtaining information on federal legislation and regulations. It includes governmental sources, such as Congress.gov, the Government Publishing Office’s Federal Digital System (FDsys), and U.S. Senate and House websites. Nongovernmental or commercial sources include resources such as HeinOnline and the Congressional Quarterly (CQ) websites.
Legislative History Research: A Guide to Resources for Congressional Staff (July 6, 2016, R41865) provides an overview of federal legislative history research, the legislative process, and where to find congressional documents. The report also summarizes some of the reasons researchers are interested in legislative history, briefly describes the actions a piece of legislation might undergo during the legislative process, and provides a list of easily accessible print and electronic resources.
See also, The Framing of the United States Constitution: A Beginner’s Guide on In Custodia Legis.
Useful. — Joe
Join Steve Lastres, Director of Knowledge Management Services at Debevoise & Plimpton, and Vable Thursday at 11:30 am (Eastern) for the webinar Just Give Me What I Need: Looking at Next-Gen Current Awareness Aggregation Tools. Topics to be covered include why content aggregation is no longer enough and Who the market players are in the legal sector. Free registration required. Recommended. — Joe
“Low-cost can cost you” campaign: Does LexisNexis now acknowledge that Fastcase and Casemaker (and even Google Scholar) pose competitive threats?
On Lextalk, LexisNexis makes an obvious distinction: it offers resources low-cost search services do not provide. In a nutshell, Low-Cost Legal Research = Low-Value Results. LexisNexis Equips You with Much, Much More (March 18, 2017) claims that Lexis Advance is simply better because of its offerings (even if you don’t need the resources, tools and other value-add-ons). No metrics, no comparison of search engine performance, simply an unsubstantiated warning to lawyers that “cost savings usually equals case-law light,” meaning as displayed below, “low-cost can cost you.” See also Lextalk’s Low-Cost Legal Research: Go Cheap, Get Gaps. Go LexisNexis, Gain Confidence (Apr. 5, 2017).
In LexisNexis Comes Out Swinging Against Lower-Cost Legal Research Services, the Lawyerist’s Lisa Needham makes a perceptive observation: “What LexisNexis seems to overlook in their eagerness to go after everyone else is that it merely highlights how much they see things like Fastcase and Google Scholar as competition. If you’re scared enough to mount an entire campaign about how great you are and how terrible other services are, you’ve pretty much already acknowledged that they represent a legitimate threat. Fastcase and Casemaker should be nothing but proud to be highlighted in this fashion.”
Competition is definitely increasing in the small law market with Lexis, Westlaw and Fastcase in a virtual tie in the small law market and it does look like Lexis is mounting a campaign to acquire a larger install base in it. Lextalk recently published posts such as Texas Legal Research: 4 Ways to Get It Done Quickly, Thoroughly, Massachusetts Legal Research: 4 Ways to Get It Done Quickly, Thoroughly and Illinois Legal Research: 4 Ways to Get It Done Quickly, Thoroughly, all of which were published on April 25, 2017. Each post offers a discount for Lexis Advance that is limited to any attorney in a law firm with 1 – 50 attorneys. So has Lexis been losing ground to Casemaker and Fastcase in the Texas, Massachusetts and Illinois small law market? — Joe
End note: Members of the state bars of Texas, Massachusetts and Illinois receive Fastcase access as a membership benefit.
There is a new legal search service on the block and it intends to compete with Lexis Advance and Westlaw
Judicata is a legal search service still evolving into becoming a fully-fledged, professional grade one but it is getting very close to being ready. The search service already claims to be better than WEXIS. According to Judicata’s CEO Itai Gurari, “[w]e’ve focused on building a search engine that returns the best results the fastest, and at this point it mops the floor with Westlaw and Lexis.” Why? Because Judicata is mapping the law with extreme accuracy and granularity. Bob Ambrogi was given an opportunity to test drive Judicata yesterday and reports his findings today at After Five Years in Stealth Mode, Judicata Reveals Its Legal Research Service. Recommended. — Joe