Pew Charitable Trusts is entering the A2J field, with a plan to develop two applications: one for online dispute resolution, and the other to provide better access to legal information by way of legal navigator websites, using natural language processing to help people diagnose their legal issues and identify a path forward. See Susan K. Urahn’s (Executive vice president and chief program officer for the Pew Charitable Trusts) comments on Governing, this Bob Ambrogi Above the Law post and this Artificial Lawyer post for more.

From the abstract for Jason Zarin, A Comparison of Case Law Results between Bloomberg Law’s ‘Smart Code’ Automated Annotated Statutes and Traditional Curated Annotated Codes (2017):

Traditional annotated codes provide an edited list of cases, organized by topic, that cite a particular statute. Bloomberg Law has recently implemented “Smart Code,” a computer-generated citator to the United States Code. The computer-generated Smart Code is designed to compete with traditional edited annotated codes in that it uses an automated and algorithmic process to classify the cases that cite a statute into a set of ninety topics. Using legal research examples in a variety of topics of increasing abstraction, results using Smart Code are compared to traditional annotated codes (United States Code Service and United States Code Annotated) as well as to specialized looseleafs (e.g., Standard Federal Tax Reporter).

From the Oct. 30, 2018 press release: “Bloomberg Law today announced the formation of its Bankruptcy Innovation Board, which will provide input and consult on the digital Bloomberg Law: Bankruptcy Treatise and inform the direction of future technology-enhanced financial restructuring and insolvency tools on the Bloomberg Law platform. The board’s membership consists of leading bankruptcy attorneys from law firms, academia, and the judiciary.”

Very interesting development. I wonder whether Bloomberg Law will organize similar innovation boards for BNA labor and employment treatises, IP treatises, etc.

Breaking legal news and analysis are critical for legal professionals as they drive success for their businesses and clients. Law360 is a key element of our growth strategy because it adds legal news and analysis, a crucial part of an attorney’s workflow and a key entry point to legal research. — Bob Romeo, (then) CEO of LexisNexis Research and Litigation Solutions, March 20, 2012.

LexisNexis solidified its hold on the digital legal news market when it acquired Law360 in 2012. The company ratcheted up its market dominance with last month’s launch of Nexis Data as a Service. Can anyone compete with LexisNexis in the legal news and news analytics space?

Bloomberg Law and Fastcase are moving into the digital legal news market. Bloomberg Law’s move is coming in the form of the staggered conversion of its topical print BNA Law Reports into a news platform targeted for specific practice groups as the company moves to a digital-only publishing model. When completed, BLaw will be well positioned to compete in the speciality law marketplace for legal news but the company will not really be competing with LexisNexis for legal news and analytics in the general law marketplace.

Legal research isn’t just about logging into an online service and running searches. It’s also about taking an active interest in developments that clients care about. Legal news means covering the stories behind new cases filed, analytics, new judicial opinions, passed bills, and rulemaking. Lawyers have to stay as informed as their clients, and our partnership with Law Street Media will be an important source of must-have information about the fast-changing practice of law. — Ed Walters, Fastcase CEO, October 24, 2018.

Fastcase has acquired and will relaunch the defunct legal news platform, Law Street, next year, as an enhanced daily news and analytics hub highlighting national and state litigation, regulatory developments and state bar news, and offering analytics driven by other Fastcase products. I seriously doubt Law Street will make all that much of a dent in LexisNexis’ dominant market position. One news outlet cannot really compete with LexisNexis’ multiple properties — Law360, Mlex and Knowledge Mosaic and partnerships with American Lawyer Media and the Wall Street Journal. Even if one takes into account Fastcase’s partnership with LexBlog’s new law blogs network, Fastcase still has a way to go to compete more directly with LexisNexis in the generalist law market.

But it is a start. I, for one, however, would have preferred if the company had entered into a partnership with an established legal news outlet like, for example, Courthouse News. Perhaps Fastcase will do so in addition to publishing Law Street.

News analytics appears to be on the rise and LexisNexis, the dominate player in legal news, intends to play its part in this new development. From yesterday’s press release:

Nexis® DaaS offers data-driven organizations distinct and differentiated advantages to harness big data’s potential:

  • Comprehensive source universe—Access to petabytes of data including global print, broadcast, web news and social commentary, company and industry data, regulatory and legal data.
  • Optimal data integrations—Delivery via flexible APIs providing normalized, XML-based, semi-structured data.
  • Robust enrichments—Enriched with multiple feature extractors and metadata related to more than 7000 subjects and industries.
  • Experienced big data partner—45 years of experience with content aggregation and multiple patents on machine learning, clustering and other big data applications decades before mainstream use.

Reynen Court has convinced a dozen BigLaw firms to form a consortium focused on standardizing their needs for legal software including artificial intelligence and smart contracts. Once they’ve identified the needs, Reynen Court plans to develop the software these firms would benefit from. Their services automation platform will enable law firms to deploy a wide range of computing applications without exposing firm or client content to disparate third-party cloud environments. The start-up also hopes to accelerate inter-operability between and among legal technology applications.

In the legal information marketplace two of our very expensive vendors are tying print acquisitions to digital licenses – LexisNexis in the general law market and Bloomberg Law in the specialty law market.  Is this the beginning of an industry-wide digital-only legal publishing movement?

Right now Fastcase and Casemaker are the only digital-only legal information providers in the marketplace but Bloomberg Law, which was digital-only until it acquired BNA, has explained to CRIV that it is moving in that direction and has been for about two years. LexisNexis started tying print to digital in the law firm marketplace about two years ago while offering no explanation to CRIV about its publishing strategy. No word or deed from Thomson Reuters in the general law market. Ditto Wolters Kluwer in the specialty market.  At least not yet.

Our very expensive legal information providers are stumbling towards a digital-only publishing model. Being digital-only is inevitable, I think, but the transition doesn’t have to be chaotic. Some best practices can be identified by mistakes BLaw and LexisNexis have already made. They include eliminating ambush-style sales policies like when a company (e.g., LexisNexis) drops bombshell take-it-or-leave-it demands during contract renewal talks without any advance notice or explanation.  Print sunsetting plans should be specific unlike when a company (e.g., BLaw) offers the continuation of print subscriptions without identifying when the print edition of affected titles will be eliminated.

Going digital-only happens only once. Since our very expensive legal information providers and our BigLaw library colleagues are heading in that direction, the rest of us must be prepared to follow. Resistance is futile. However, vendors can help law libraries make the transition by detailing their plans like Thomson Reuters did at the launch of Westlaw Edge by informing current Westlaw subscribers that Westlaw will be phased out in 2024. This is not a time for the typical dynamic — vendors act, law libraries react.

 

21-year-old Joshua Browder, creator of the chatbot DoNotPay, just released a series of free apps designed to help consumers solve common legal problems without the help of a lawyer such as filing small claims lawsuits in any US jurisdication. Plus DoNotPay has acquired Visabot to help individuals obtain visas and green cards. Bob Ambrogi interviewed Browder in his latest LawNext podcast.

Bloomberg Law wants to get out of the print business (except, perhaps, for its treatise product line). I know of no BLaw press release announcing this fundamental change in publishing model but to its credit the Company explained its plans in some detail to CRIV earlier this year.

Last summer BLaw announced to CRIV that it was moving toward becoming a digital-only publisher because, the company explained, law libraries are moving away from print. True for law firms — 75% of total information budget is spent on electronic information.  Less so for academic law libraries — 44% of total information budget is spent on electronic information. And much less so for public sector law libraries — 35% of total information budget is spent on electronic information according to AALL statistics.

The transition from BNA Law Reports in print to the news platform is a major component of this strategy to reinvent the Company.  Not offering new Bloomberg Law online subscribers print materials for sale started some two years ago and that is another major component. Now BLaw is transitioning existing clients to its digital-only model. Or should I say, digital-almost-only model.

BLaw reported to CRIV that Tax Management Portfolios and Corporate Practice Series will continue in print for the time being. “No print sunset has been determined at this time. Subscribers will be notified in advance when an end date is determined.” Until that date is determined, BLaw is executing a sales policy similar to LexisNexis tying its print products availability to entering into a subscription for Lexis Advance. One difference: while LexisNexis has no coherent publishing strategy and is just trying to improve its bottom line by holding print hostage to digital, BLaw is trying to move to digital-only publishing by pricing some of its most valued print resources out of existence.

With regret, my county law library cancelled all BNA print and e-resources several years ago. We simply couldn’t afford to maintain our subscriptions. Now several of my Ohio county law library colleagues are grappling with BLaw demands as their print editions of BNA’s portfolio series come up for renewal.

For existing subscribers of BLaw BNA print portfolios, the Company now is requiring law libraries to subscribe to at least one seat for Bloomberg Law in order to have the privilege of subscribing to the print editions of Tax Management Portfolios and/or Corporate Practice Series for an additional expense. One Ohio county law library recently calculated that BLaw’s tying is almost a 300% increase over its cost for subscribing just to portfolios in print. That county law library, one of Ohio’s largest, cancelled its BNA print and did not subscribe to Bloomberg Law. So did another Ohio county law library. And a third, also one of Ohio’s largest county law libraries, will probably cancel if it does not receive some concessions from the Company. That’s how Ohio’s public sector is responding to BLaw.

I wonder how many other law libraries are simply walking away from BLaw in response to this new digital-almost-only sales policy. I guess subscriber cancellations in response to take-it-or-leave-it negotiations tactics is one way to reinvent yourself as a digital-only publisher. Unfortunately BLaw’s fundamental changes impact the law library marketplace unevenly.  Arguably private law firm libraries are more capable of paying the increased cost than either academic or public law libraries.

Vincent is “the first AI-powered intelligent legal research assistant of its kind. Only Vincent can analyze documents in two languages (English and Spanish) from 9 countries (and counting), and is built ready to incorporate content not only from vLex’s expansive global collection, but also from internal knowledge management resources, public sources and licensed databases simultaneously. How does Vincent do it, you ask? Well, it’s been trained on vLex’s extensive global collection of 100 million+ legal documents, and is built on top of the Iceberg AI platform.” For more information, see this vLex blog post.

On Medium, Fastcase CEO Ed Walters lists all the development work the company accomplished this year (so far): the release of Fastcase 7, the roll-out of the Docket Alarm Analytics Workbench and the AI Sandbox, the launch of Fasecase’s imprint, Full Court Press, and the growth of Fastcase’s digital collection of secondary works. That’s an impressive list of achievements. The last development, secondary law resources, is one that does not get as much attention as it deserves. It certainly does not get the kind of attention received by Fastcase’s other developments. But it is important because primary-law-only search services cannot really compete with WEXIS. And if anyone is going to compete more directly with Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis or BloombergBNA, Fastcase is.

Many years ago I asked Ed about secondary sources on Fastcase. Not now was the response. Back then, the company was focused on growing its primary law collection, particularly state statutes and codes. Now Ed writes “Fastcase has gone from a handful of secondary treatises to more than 400 secondary treatises in about 14 months, with lots more to come.” He adds “And while we’re talking about secondary materials, let’s not forget that Fastcase’s partnership with LexBlog incorporates more than 15,000 of the best blogs of legal analysis, and our partnership with HeinOnline includes the full run of every law review in America.”

What treatises have been added? Ed lists the sources: “Fastcase licensed more than 120 fantastic Aspen and CCH treatises from Wolters Kluwer, 79 labor and employment titles from Littler, and criminal law treatises from Carolina Academic Press. These are terrific, expert guides, like Barry Zalma’s insurance law series. We’ve also added several new state bar association deskbook collections.”

At 400+ secondary law titles, Fastcase’s digital collection is not competitively comprehensive with WEXIS, but it is growing thanks, no doubt, to the work of former LexisNexis executive Steve Errick who, as Fastcase’s first COO, is responsible for this development (among other things, of course).

Now try to imagine Steve’s task at hand. The best way to do that is to put on your bibliographer’s hat. Your largest user population is attorneys who access Fastcase via one of 30 state bar associations that have contracted with the company. They are solo practitioners, small firm attorneys and attorneys employed by large law firms. Information needs are similar but not identical. Some have access to search services offered by our very expensive legal information providers. Some do not.

Many users work for mid-size and large law firms that license WEXIS. With WEXIS in the picture, those attorneys may not consider Fastcase as their go-to search service because WEXIS has a more comprehensive catalog of secondary works. But to fulfill the information needs of mid-size and large law firms Fastcase has licensed titles from Wolters Kluwer publications and is probably looking to add even more titles to license.

Many other users work in small firms or are solo practitioners, some without WEXIS access. While most firms practice at both the state and federal level, small firms and solo practitioners tend to focus their practice on state law. So to fulfill the secondary information needs of small firms and solo practitioners, state law deskbooks, bar association publications and other practice-oriented topical secondary works are needed. Fastcase is building this part of its secondary law resources too.

At some point in the development of its secondary law collection, Fastcase’s materials will become sufficiently attractive to WEXIS users that they may replace WEXIS with Fastcase. Perhaps some already have. More to follow. When Fastcase reaches this critical mass (remember “lots more to come”) watch out WEXIS. In particular, watch out Lexis. Fastcase is rising.

— Joe

According to this Above the Law post, attorneys searching Casetext’s CARA completed their research 24.5 times faster compared to Lexis Advance. Annualized time savings using CARA adds up to between 132 and 210 hours a year. The survey also found that attorneys rated CARA’s results 20.8 percent more relevant than Lexis Advance. Interesting but I would prefer to see a similar study comparing Casetext’s CLARA and Westlaw Edge. — Joe

From Sarah Lamdan, When Westlaw Fuels Ice Surveillance: Ethics in the Big Data Policing Era, N.Y.U. Review of Law & Social Change (Forthcoming):

Legal research companies are selling surveillance data and services to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other law enforcement agencies. This article discusses ethical issues that arise when lawyers buy and use legal research services sold by the vendors that build ICE’s surveillance systems. As the legal profession collectively pays millions of dollars for computer assisted legal research services, lawyers should consider whether doing so in the era of big data policing compromises their confidentiality requirements and their obligation to supervise third party vendors.

— Joe

Following up on this LLB post that asks “Does WEXIS use legal search user data in their surveillance search platforms?,” Sarah Lamdan reports via email about what transpired at CRIV’s Vendor Roundtable on Sunday. Sarah reports that LexisNexis denied using legal search user data in their surveillance search platform and Bloomberg Law stated it doesn’t save user data. “Thomson Reuters/Westlaw was notably silent,” Sarah observed.

Not discussed at CRIV’s vendor roundtable Sunday was the thornier issue for librarian professional ethics, namely that these companies are bidding on and contracting with ICE for surveillance purposes. See Sarah’s Surveillance and Legal Research Providers: What You Need to Know. — Joe

Yesterday, LexisNexis launched Lexis Analytics. From the press release:

The suite consists of new and enhanced products fueled by smart content from Lexis Advance and the strategic acquisitions of Lex Machina, Intelligize and Ravel Law, and integrates the most powerful technologies in the legal space, including machine learning, artificial intelligence (A.I.) and visualization tools.

Most powerful? Thomson Reuters’ Westlaw Edge is offering stiff competition for analytics. For a review of the launch, see the following stories:

LexisNexis Launches Lexis Analytics, Putting A ‘Stake in the Ground’ to Claim the Legal Analytics Space, Bob Ambrogi, LawSites, uly 13, 2018

LexisNexis Launches Lexis Analytics, Leveraging Collective Power of Recent Acquisitions, LegaltechNews, July 12, 2018

— Joe

 

Calling Westlaw Edge the most significant release since WestlawNext in 2010, Thomson Reuters announced the launch of Westlaw Edge just in time to create a lot of buzz at AALL’s annual meeting. Is it buzz worthy? Well, I haven’t seen it but initial reports indicate that the AI-enhanced Westlaw Edge is more that just an incremental upgrade.

To dive into this new development ahead of AALL 2018, check out the below articles:

Move Over Westlaw – Meet the Next-Generation Westlaw Edge, With Advanced AI and Analytics, Bob Ambrogi, LawSites, July 12, 2018

Thomson Reuters Launches Westlaw Edge, West Search Plus, Analytics, Enhanced Citator and More, Jean O’Grady, Dewey B Strategic, July 12, 2018

A Deep Dive Into the Tech Upgrades in Thomson Reuters’ Westlaw Edge, Legaltech News, July 12, 2018

Westlaw Edge will be offered as an upgrade from Westlaw for current Westlaw subscribers. Westlaw will be phased out in 2024. I wonder if Thomson Reuters is going to repeat the pricing mistake the company made at the launch of WestlawNext by trying to charge a 10% premium for Westlaw Edge? It didn’t work for WestlawNext. I doubt it will work with Westlaw Edge. — Joe

As Sarah Lamdan has documented both Thomson Reuters and RELX are supplying search solutions for their compiled surveillance data to law enforcement agencies, including ICE. She has also called attention to the ethical issues information professionals face in light of this development.

One issue that affects law librarians who use WEXIS legal search services is the extent to which, if any, there is cross-pollination of usage data from WEXIS legal search platforms to their surveillance search platforms. One would think our WEXIS representatives would be able to answer one simple yes/no question — Does WEXIS use legal search user data in their surveillance search platforms?

Hopefully this question will be asked and answered straightforwardly at CRIV’s Vendor Roundtable Sunday. That assumes WEXIS will send company representatives to the roundtable to serve as participants, not just observers, and further assumes that WEXIS responses will not hide behind a “proprietary information” response.

This matter may lead to further investigations by CRIV and, perhaps may require AALL Executive Board involvement. This Sunday’s vendor roundtable may be one of the most interesting roundtables in recent memory.

CRIV Vendor Roundtable
Sunday, July 15
1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.
Hilton Key Ballroom 9

— Joe