Category Archives: Products & Services

AALL’s 2018 New Product Award goes to BLaw’s Points of Law

According to today’s AALL eBriefing, Bloomberg Law’s Point of Law artificial intelligence solution has been awarded AALL’s 2018 New Product Award. For a review of the product, see Mark Giangrande’s LLB post.  — Joe

Google launches “Talk to Books” semantic-search tool

Ask Google’s new semantic-search tool “Talk to Books” a question and the tool will return a list of books that include information on that specific question. How? An AI-powered tool will scan every sentence in 100,000 volumes in Google Books and generate a list of likely responses with the pertinent passage bolded. Give the new tool a test drive here. — Joe

Jean O’Grady goes old school

And by that I mean, Jean is launching what sounds like an annual “best of” selection of Dewey B Strategic blog posts in a print-based “blog-o-zine.” The 2017 compilation is expected to be published on or about April 30th. Jean writes

Why should someone pay for it? The 2017 Dewey B Strategic Blog-o-zine is intended to be an easy access, reference handbook on the major legal research/technology trends, product releases and enhancements of 2017. The book includes 34 product reviews for cutting edge legal products incorporating AI, analytics, workflow tools and plain old expert analysis. What have the big players Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis, Bloomberg Law and Wolters Kluwer been up to? Did you catch the release of new features on Fastcase, CARA, Ravel, Lex Machina? Have you heard about the innovative new tools from Judicata, Gavelitcs and Voxgov? The blog-o-zine can be seen as a good investment in a tool that will make it easier for you to focus your time and your budgets on best products for your firm’s research
needs.

The book will retail for $99 but will be available at the pre-publication price of $79.00 (plus shipping) through April 30th. If interested follow this link to Jean’s blog post which includes a PayPal link for purchasing this compilation.

Interesting. — Joe

“The Board will be gathering more facts in order to determine how to effectively respond” to LexisNexis’ tying ultimatum

We have been reporting on recent LexisNexis tie-in attempts wherein the Company refuses to sell print or ancillary products in retaliation for cancelling Lexis Advance as if this may be a new company sales policy. Initially I thought a rogue LN sales rep may have created the reported situation involving a large law firm in Texas. Having now heard confidentially about similar tie-in negotiations, I and I have no doubt other invoice-paying law librarians are interested in finding out what is going on and what we are going to do about this to support member institutions. So is our association’s Executive Board.

At last week’s meeting, the Executive Board heard a request from CRIV to issue “a statement of disapproval of the LexisNexis policy.” Instead of issuing the statement, the Executive Board has decided to gather “more facts in order to determine how to effectively respond” according to AALL Member News for the Week of April 9, 2018. No word on who is performing the investigation, when it will commence and conclude, whether the results will be reported to the membership in a timely manner, and what AALL will do with the results of its investigation.

OK, our association isn’t exactly known for its consumer advocacy efforts on behalf of all institutional members but I hope AALL’s statement means that it will solicit additional information, this time from all law librarians who have been confronted with LN’s tie-in ultimatum. If your law library has been the recipient of LN’s ultimatum, I think the best people to inform right now are the members of CRIV. The more instances of similar negotiations, the better.

Let’s not let LexisNexis get away with giving the Executive Board the same sort of “answers” the Company gave CRIV when CRIV asked LN three times for an explanation. Here they are:

First attempted explanation — “Our pricing is different in each market and varies depending on which products and solutions work best for each customer. Accordingly, we sit down with customers and explain the pricing for their firm, including what products are sold together and which are sold separately. If any of your readers want to discuss, we are happy to do so directly with them.”

Second attempted explanation — “Keep in mind that Lexis has been selling integrated products as a package with Online for many years with notable examples such as Lexis Search Advantage, Lexis for Microsoft Office, Verdict and Settlement Analyzer, Profile Suite, LN Publisher, and Digital Library. As we retire Lexis.com this year, and upgrade users to Lexis Advance, we will more fully leverage our
platform that consolidates all content and tools to one ecosystem. This affords considerable benefits to users including being able to navigate seamlessly between products, have answer sets surfaced across products, and gain access into the central Online content repository, that formerly would have been restricted by product.”

Third attempted explanation — “It is impossible for us to answer this specific question with a blanket statement since all markets have unique pricing plans suited to buying preferences. What does apply at a broad level is that we are continuing to integrate products into Lexis Advance where all global content and tools will be housed and maintained to the highest level of accuracy and currentness. We are
exploring pricing and packaging options that offer a seamless experience across products and access to related answer sets not possible with satellite products. Please refer to related information provided in the LexisNexis/CRIV conference posted on CRIV Blog, Dec. 20, Again, If any readers wish to discuss, we encourage them to contact their account team directly.”

I call BS.

Hopefully, our association will aggressively pursue what may be the most serious complaint about LexisNexis in at least a decade. — Joe

LexBlog seeks to expand number of blogs as it prepares to launch news and commentary network

Back in January LexBlog appointed Bob Ambrogi publisher and editor-in-chief. Now Bob announces that LexBlog is opening participation in the network to any legal blogger, without cost and without regard to whether the blog is hosted on the LexBlog platform. LexBlog, by the way, is preparing to launch a global news and commentary network based on content from its legal blogs. — Joe

At 1:00 PM CDT Friday, AALL may decide to issue a “statement of disapproval” over one very expensive legal information provider’s tie-in negotiating tactics

Yesterday I reported that CRIV has been unsuccessful in attempting to resolve a dispute involving LexisNexis and a large law firm in Texas over LexisNexis’ refusal to sell its print products unless the firm renewed its Lexis Advance license. (Since then I have heard about how LexisNexis has coerced other law libraries using the same negotiations tactic.). At 1:00 PM CDT Friday, the Executive Board will consider CRIV’s recommendation that AALL issue “a statement of disapproval of the LexisNexis policy.” If issued, what should the statement say?

How about a strongly worded condemnation of what may be anti-competitive tying because (1) two separate products or services are involved, (2) the sale or agreement to sell one is conditioned on the purchase of the other, (3) the seller has sufficient economic power in the market for the tying product to enable it to restrain trade in the market for the tied product, and (4) a not insubstantial amount of interstate commerce in the tied product is affected. Enumerating the elements of a per se violation of antitrust law might be a good start for advocating for our institutional membership base. — Joe

What! Is LexisNexis discriminating against law libraries that cancel Lexis Advance?

The following complaint was reported by CRIV to the Executive Board for the Board’s Spring 2018 meeting.

In July of 2017, an AALL member (a librarian at a large law firm in Texas) submitted a help request to CRIV regarding a change in LexisNexis sales policy that she felt was detrimental to her firm, and requested that CRIV mediate the situation with LexisNexis. Specifically, the librarian’s complaint alleged that when her firm decided not to renew its subscription to the Lexis Advance database, LexisNexis retaliated by stating that they would no longer be willing to sell any LexisNexis print materials or ancillary online legal products (such as Law360) to the firm.

In the Spring Meeting Board Book 2018 (Tab 14, PDF pages 186-188), CRIV reports to the Executive Board that our representatives were given unsatisfactory answers when they questioned LexisNexis about this complaint. Still waiting for an explanation… . — Joe

All the data Facebook and Google collect about you

If you want to see what data Google collects on you, go here. For Facebook data collection on you, go here. For an overview of Google and Facebook personal data collection, see this Guardian article. Recommended.

H/T to bespacific. — Joe

CloudNine acquires LexisNexis eDiscovery product suite

LexisNexis has sold its eDiscovery product suite including the LAW PreDiscovery, Early Discovery Analyzer and Concordance products. “That final one is particularly notable—23.5 percent of respondents to the 2017 LTN Law Firm Tech Survey indicated using the tool for e-discovery” notes Legaltech news. In an FAQ on CloudNine’s website, the company added that it plans to allow access to all of the tools in its portfolio to pre-existing users of the LexisNexis and the CloudNine software. — Joe

Susan Nevelow Mart’s Results may vary in legal research databases published in ABA Journal

“Call me naive,” wrote Bob Ambrogi about the conclusions reached by Susan Nevelow Mart in her excellent research found in The Algorithm as a Human Artifact: Implications for Legal {Re}Search, “but I would have thought that entering the identical search query on, say, both Westlaw and Lexis Advance would return fairly similar results.” I was somewhat shocked that Bob hadn’t realized what law librarians have known for 40 years, an insight made even more important since WEXIS implemented “black box” searching because it won’t release proprietary information about the construction of their search algorithms.

Perhaps the editors of the ABA Journal thought their readers might also be naive because the Journal published a summary of Nevelow Mart’s research results in the March issue. See Results may vary in legal research databases by Susan Nevelow Mart. Here’s a snip:

At first glance, the various legal research databases seem similar. For instance, they all promote their natural language searching, so when the keywords go into the search box, researchers expect relevant results. The lawyer would also expect the results to be somewhat similar no matter which legal database a lawyer uses. After all, the algorithms are all trying to solve the same problem: translating a specific query into relevant results.

The reality is much different. In a comparison of six legal databases—Casetext, Fastcase, Google Scholar, Lexis Advance, Ravel and Westlaw—when researchers entered the identical search in the same jurisdictional database of reported cases, there was hardly any overlap in the top 10 cases returned in the results. Only 7 percent of the cases were in all six databases, and 40 percent of the cases each database returned in the results set were unique to that database. It turns out that when you give six groups of humans the same problem to solve, the results are a testament to the variability of human problem-solving. If your starting point for research is a keyword search, the divergent results in each of these six databases will frame the rest of your research in a very different way.

Highly recommended. This ABAJ article should be assigned reading for law school students — all law school students, not just 1Ls taking their LRW courses. — Joe

Huddleston’s Fastcase: The Definitive Guide published by ABA

From the blurb for Fastcase: The Definitive Guide (ABA, 2018) by Brian Huddleston:

The days when lawyers could run up hundreds or thousands of dollars in expenses from one of the “big three” legal research services and bill those amounts to their clients are long gone. And, as any lawyer knows, time is money. If you’re a lawyer using Fastcase, you already know how to use your legal research budget and your time efficiently. This book will help you put Fastcase and your valuable time to even better use. It will also show you some features you didn’t even know it had.

If you’re new to Fastcase, get ready to learn how to use this invaluable legal research tool and work with the variety of resources it gives you, from case law to statutes, regulations, and more. More than 25 state bar associations now provide Fastcase to their members; if yours is one of them (or if you have your own subscription) you can’t be without this helpful guide!

Recommended for all Fastcase users. — Joe

Fact-checking Trump tweets in real time with Washington Post plugins

The Washington Post has made available a Foxfire plugin and a Chrome plugin that will automatically display commentary next to Donald Trump’s tweets. Spearheaded by the Post’s politics team at The Fix, the plugins provides context and fact-checking of Trump tweets in real time. Recommended. — Joe

Library of Congress makes historical versions of USC available online after buying them from Hein

More than 60 years of U.S. laws are now published online and accessible for free for the first time after being acquired through a purchase agreement with William S. Hein & Co, Inc. The Library has made available the main editions and supplements of the United States Code from 1925 through the 1988 edition here.

H/T to beSpacific. — Joe

LexisNexis’s Role in ICE Surveillance and Librarian Ethics

by Sarah Lamdan and Yasmin Sokkar Harker

A recent Intercept article listed the data corporations vying to build ICE’s Extreme Vetting surveillance system. The list of companies signing on to this project includes LexisNexis, a go-to product for legal and business research, news, and public-records searching. LexisNexis is a ubiquitous library resource. It can be found on public use computers and webpages in public, academic, and private libraries across the nation. For librarians in the legal field, especially, LexisNexis is an often unavoidable product, as it is one of two major research systems for the law.

Civil liberties activists and artificial intelligence (AI) experts quickly responded to the news by writing a letter, en masse, to IBM’s CEO, condemning the company’s potential participation in the ICE program. The AI experts decried the program as being “tailor-made for discrimination”, as it is meant to determine and evaluate an applicant’s probability of becoming a positively contributing member of society, as well as their ability to contribute to national interests and predict whether an applicant intends to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States. These types of programs have not been proven to be effective, and in other cases, have falsely labelled individuals as criminals or security risks. This program is not totally dissimilar to IBM’s role in the Holocaust as the statisticians and data-gatherers behind massive deportation and roundup lists. Librarians should be active participants in the conversation about the ICE project to build a system for surveillance and deportation.

Librarians are advocates and activists for privacy rights and the protection of personally identifiable information in surveillance, standing up against recent-anti-muslim Executive Orders and making it clear that libraries and information are for everyone. Librarians know that privacy and the ability to do research without fear of surveillance are the cornerstones of intellectual freedom. We have historically been active in the fight for civil liberties, even going to jail to protect our patrons from intrusive government surveillance.

Librarians are also invested in the ethical use of information. The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy emphasizes the role of “using information, data, and scholarship ethically” and the AALL Legal Research Competencies and Standards states that a successful legal researcher “distinguishes between ethical and unethical uses of information”. The Boulder Statement on Legal Research Education specifies that legal research instruction should include “an ongoing examination of professional standards, including the identification of ethical responsibilities.” Given this focus on ethics, librarians should explore and publicize the ethical implications of a system that would use personal data in a way that technology experts believe will falsely identify people as posing a criminal risk and expose those individuals to serious repercussions.

Critical information literacy, or understanding the source of information and the roles information providers have in society at large, is also a cornerstone of the library profession. As librarians, we must investigate the source of LexisNexis data. While many librarians are pleased by LexisNexis push-of-a-button dossiers on potential clients and library users are tickled that they can use LexisNexis products to track down ex-beaus and high school classmates, we cannot ignore the rotten roots from which this personal data springs. As of 2006, LexisNexis had the world’s largest electronic database for public-records related information. Along with Accurint, a huge public records database, LexisNexis purchased Seisint, a post-9/11 creation whose MATRIX system combines commercial and government records to enable the quick creation of “suspects” or surveillance targets. Seisint, and its MATRIX system, were condemned by civil liberties activists as a tool to propel the nation towards a “surveillance society.” It is incumbent upon librarians to understand and build awareness about the products we provide to the public. Especially if our patrons are likely to be harmed by ICE surveillance, we cannot, in good conscience, counsel them to use products under the LexisNexis umbrella to conduct research in our libraries.

As library organizations discuss ways library professionals can advocate for intellectual freedom, democracy, and equality, we should begin by grappling with how to react when our major database providers engage in massive surveillance projects with the government. It is an opportunity for us, as professionals to put our ethical standards and critical information literacy practices to practical use. As the gatekeepers for the databases and platforms that we use for research, librarians have an obligation to honor privacy and civil liberties in their libraries, and to stand up to research product companies helping ICE to build supersystems for “extremely vetting” citizens and noncitizens alike.

Editor’s Note: The above post was originally published on RIPS Law Librarian Blog, a publication of the Research, Instruction, and Patron Services Special Interest Section (RIPS-SIS) of the American Association of Law Libraries, on December 5, 2017. It was removed from the blog on the “advice of AALL General Counsel” as stated here. The authors asked to publish their post on LLB and I am happy to provide a means for this very important contribution to see the light of day. — Joe

 

GPO and the GOP’s tax plan: What if tax bill’s automatic spending cuts are triggered?

On Free Government Information, James Jacobs observes that the automatic spending cuts in the GOP’s tax plan could decimate the GPO because its revolving fund for FY18 could be cut $2 millions in 2018 with additional cuts for 10 years. “$2 million doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but GPO only requested $8,540,000 for the revolving fund for FY18. That’s a 25% cut! The revolving fund pays for improvements to GPO’s FDsys (and its successor system, govinfo) as well as other essential IT projects and things like enhancing the cybersecurity of GPO’s IT systems and other necessary physical infrastructure projects.” “With passage of this ‘tax cut’ bill, Jacobs wrote “GPO’s demise is no longer hypothetical. What will FDLP libraries do in that case? Does GPO have a formal succession plan or escrow arrangements (key components of a Trusted Digital Repository audit!)? And what will FDLP libraries do to maintain critical access to and preservation of government information going forward?” — Joe

New milestone reached in law firm/corporate law information budgets

According to AALL’s 2017 Biennial Salary Survey & Organizational Characteristics, total information budgets increased substantially for government and law firm/corporate law libraries but not academic law libraries when compared to the 2015 survey results. Government libraries’ information budget increased 31% and law firm/corporate law libraries’ information budgets increased 26%. Academic law libraries’ information budgets were flat.

Electronic information budgets as a percent of total information budgets essentially was unchanged for government law libraries in 2017 at 35%. Not so for other market segments. Electronic information budgets as a percent of total information budget rose 16% for law schools, from 38% in 2015 to 44% of total information budgets in 2017. Law firm/corporate law libraries’ electronic information budgets rose 9%, from 69% to a record 75% of total information budgets in 2017. No time in the history of AALL’s biennial surveys has a market segment reached this 75% milestone. Is the end of this substitution trend in sight? I have my doubts. — Joe

What is push research?

Back in the good old days of the 1980’s when I was a big law firm research librarian (instead of a bean-counting library administrator I have become), I would “push” or proactively supply attorneys resources unsolicited because I thought they may need the information for pending matters we had worked on together. Usually, the material provided was relevant and welcomed. “Push research” as explained by Casetext’s Jake Heller applies artificial intelligence to what amounts to be the electronic footprints of researchers to alert, update and supply resources to the end user sometimes unsolicited as I had done. By the sound of it, AI-engineered “push research” would perform a far better job of providing unsolicited pertinent information than the typical legal research librarian of the 1980s. On ATL, see Jake Heller, Push Research: How AI Is Fundamentally Changing The Way We Research The Law. Recommended. — Joe

Analyzing jury verdicts to evaluate litigation outcomes: A view from Thomson Reuters’ R&D team

Presented at the 16th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law (2017), Jack Conrad and Khalid Al-Kofahi, both employed by Thomson Reuters, explain scenario analytics using the Company’s jury verdict and settlement databases. Here’s the abstract for their paper, Scenario Analytics – Analyzing Jury Verdicts to Evaluate Legal Case Outcomes:

Scenario Analytics is a type of analysis that focuses on the evaluation of different scenarios, their merits and their consequences. In the context of the legal domain, this could be in the form of analyzing large databases of legal cases, their facts and their claims, to answer questions such as: Do the current facts warrant litigation?, Is the litigation best pursued before a judge or a jury?, How long is it likely to take?, and What are the best strategies to use for achieving the most favorable outcome for the client? In this work, we report on research directed at answering such questions. We use one of a set of jury verdicts databases totaling nearly a half-million records. At the same time, we conduct a series of experiments that answer key questions and build, sequentially, a powerful data driven legal decision support system, one that can assist an attorney to differentiate more effective from less effective legal principles and strategies. Ultimately, it represents a productivity tool that can help a litigation attorney make the most prudent decisions for his or her client.

— Joe

 

Natural language processing and machine learning tools in HeinOnline

Check out Shannon Sabo’s two part series on HeinOnline’s implementation of natural language processing and AI: Part One and Part Two. — Joe

Fastcase adds blog commentary to Fastcase 7

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