Ravel Law's New Analytics Tool for US Courts

I had a chance to talk with Ravel Law's CEO, Daniel Lewis last week about Ravel's new analytical tool for US Courts. I've been doing less and less product reviews lately because Bob Ambrogi and Jean O'Grady do a much better job at reviewing new products than I, but Daniel and Ravel Law have been such proponents of law librarians and legal information professionals, that I thought I'd dust off my reviewing skills and have him walk me through the new tool.

In my opinion, content is still king when it comes to legal research, but analytical tools make deciphering all the content so much better, and help researchers find the relationships between issues that might otherwise go unnoticed. Ravel is introducing a new analytics platform today which identifies patterns in millions of court decisions to access the possible outcomes, and help the litigation researcher deduce the best arguments or actions to take in his or her individual case, based upon the way specific judges or courts previously ruled on similar issues. In simpler terms, it allows you to better know your Judge or Court.

Daniel Lewis walked me through examples of the tool, ranging from specific issues in front of individual courts and judges, to much more complicated and academic research of how broader issues are handled differently over time, or regions. From what I have seen, there is a lot of potential for practicing attorneys and research academics alike with the Court Analytics tool.

The image below shows the layout of the Court Analytics platform. There's a lot more to see from the tool, and Jean O'Grady will present a webinar later today (1 PM ET) to demonstrate it.

The press release is listed below with more information.

Ravel Law Launches New Analytics for US Court System
First Platform to Offer Analytics for All Federal and State Courts

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – DECEMBER 5, 2016 – Ravel Law, a legal research and analytics platform, today announced the launch of Court Analytics, a first-of-its-kind offering that provides an unprecedented view into the caselaw and decisions of state and federal courts.

Ravel’s Court Analytics answers critical questions that litigators face in developing legal strategy. By analyzing millions of court opinions to identify patterns in language and case outcomes, Ravel empowers litigators to make data-driven decisions when comparing forums, assessing possible outcomes, and crafting briefs using the most important cases and rules. Complex projects that used to take hours or days of research can now be done in minutes, with answers that deliver richer intelligence and detail.
“Court Analytics offers law firms a truer understanding of how courts behave and how cases are tried. Attorneys can inform their strategy with objective insights about the cases, judges, rules and language that make each jurisdiction unique. The future of litigation will be different, and we’re already seeing changes – with top attorneys combining their art of lawyering with our science, to advance their arguments in the most effective way possible,” said Daniel Lewis, co-founder and chief executive officer of Ravel Law.
Court Analytics applies data science, natural language processing, and machine learning to evaluate millions of court decisions spanning hundreds of years from over 400 federal and state courts. Its features include:

·         Search and filter caselaw by court, 90+ motion types, keywords, and topics.
·         Predict possible outcomes by identifying how courts and judges have ruled on similar cases or or motion types in the past.
·         Uncover the key cases, standards, and language that make each court unique.

With Court Analytics, lawyers can take advantage of never-before-seen insights, such as:

·         Judge Susan Illston in the Northern District of California grants 60% of motions to dismiss, which makes her 14% more likely to grant than other judges in the district.
·         The Second Circuit is most likely to turn to the 9th Circuit for persuasive caselaw, and then to the 5th and 7th Circuits.
·         Measured by citations, Judge Richard Posner truly is the most influential judge on the 7th Circuit. One of Posner’s most widely cited decisions is Bjornson v. Astrue, an appeal from a district court decision affirming the denial of social security disability benefits by an adminis­trative law judge. The most important passage of that decision is on page 644, as it deals with the Administrative Law Judge’s “opaque boilerplate.”
·         The California Court of Appeals has ruled on more than 1,000 cases that deal with the right of privacy. The two most important precedential decisions the courts rely on in such cases are California Supreme Court cases: White v. Davis and Hill v. National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Court Analytics adds to Ravel’s analytical research suite, alongside the award-winning Judge Analytics tool, which identifies the rules, cases, and specific language that a judge commonly cites, and Case Analytics, which finds key passages within cases and shows how they are interpreted. Using the Ravel platform, attorneys can gain insights customized to the unique circumstances of their case at every step of their research process. All three features are available today (www.ravellaw.com) via paid subscription (for individuals and organizations).

Ravel’s subscription-based services are enhanced by the “Caselaw Access Project,” the company’s ongoing collaboration with Harvard Law School to digitize the school’s entire collection of U.S. caselaw, one of the largest collections of legal materials in the world. Through this project, millions of court decisions are being digitized and added to the Ravel platform. This database of American law serves as an underlying data set that people can search and view for free in Ravel, in addition to using Ravel’s paid technologies to derive insights.

Ravel will be hosting a launch webcast to share more details on Court Analytics on Monday, December 5, 2016, 11:00 AM PST (2 pm EST). Register here to learn more: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7457269768975514627?source=CMS

About Ravel Law

Ravel is a legal search, visualization, and analytics platform. Ravel empowers lawyers to do data-driven research, with analytics and interfaces that help them sift through vast amounts of legal information to find what matters. Established by lawyers in 2012, Ravel spun out of interdisciplinary work between Stanford University’s law school, computer science department, and d.school. Ravel is based in San Francisco, and is funded by New Enterprise Associates, North Bridge Venture Partners, Ulu Ventures, Experiment Fund, and Work-Bench.

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Comp on the Client Side: Living in a Glass House

The billable hour has been trashed repeatedly over how it motivates bad behavior in law firms. The reasoning goes that rewarding hours billed motivates lawyers (associates and partners) to spend more time on tasks than necessary, resulting in inefficiencies. My personal opinion is that rewarding hard work is not the problem, but instead poor management over the efforts of workers is the real problem.

For now, I will leave that argument aside and turn attention towards clients. It's easy to toss stones at the glass house across the street, but clients should be taking a hard look at their own financial motivations first.

At a conference this fall, I posed a question on how clients reward their internal lawyers. The group involved included both clients and law firms. The question was: What financial motivations do in-house lawyers have for reducing the cost of legal services?  I figured it was a fair question, since that is the primary complaint about law firm compensation systems.

Part of the motivation for the question came from a conversation with a colleague who moved from a firm to a client over a year ago. They noted that in-house lawyers are not threatened by the emerging roles in legal departments focused on cost savings. The reason they are not concerned is that the new roles pose no threat to their own careers. In-house lawyers advanced by - being good lawyers and not by being cost focused.

After I posed my question to the group there was a long, silent pause. It appeared no one had ever asked this type of question, so people had to think about it. But even then, the response was just shrugs. Finally one person from the client-side noted that lawyers who regularly force write offs were noticed positively in some fashion.

Two thoughts:

1 - People in glass houses shouldn't through stones. If misaligned comp systems are a problem, you might want to start with updating your own before you trash others'.

2 - After giving it some thought, the one comment made about financial motivation is actually counter-productive. If in-house lawyers show value by securing regular write offs, they are being rewarded for engaging with law firms who are habitually inefficient, or worse, padding their bills.

I have run into #2 a number of times. My best guess is that in-house lawyers feel write offs are truly driving value since management can view it as measurable cost savings. At a prior firm I had one partner suggest we preemptively write down 2% of the time on every bill to save the client the time since that was what they did. I asked if the work was being done poorly necessitating a 2% hit. He said no. So I said no - since the client would still write the time off 2% to show value to their boss.

The challenge of aligning comp with client cost goals is therefore one faced by both firms and clients. And it is one more argument for why clients and firms should work collaboratively on addressing the needs for more cost savings and efficiencies.

Otherwise, expect to the hear the sounds of more glass shattering.

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Context Context Context

It is long believed that the key to real estate purchases is location, location location. And while I am not in the business of flipping houses, it seems to me and my limited HGTV understanding of the world, that location is pretty important when buying property. 

Recently, there have been a dearth of posts here and elsewhere relating to changing nature of the legal market, none of which are surprising or nor have any of the changes occurred in a vacuum. We've watched the incremental change for years and perhaps now we are just reaching the tipping point for all things legal client service delivery, AI, matter planning & pricing, LPO, LPM and so forth. The neighbourhood is changing and we've lost sight of the ideal location. 

It is not surprising that we can't see what's right in front of us.  Equal to the talk of the changing legal landscape, is talk of the information overload and how to bring one in line to assist with the other. For example I've posted about the need for better EI, UI, UX and the implementation of "design thinking" in solving legal problems or the problems of legal service delivery. I am a huge proponent of all these concepts. I really am, what I do, is fundamentally about wading through reams of data to paint a pretty picture. Without empathizing with the client and presenting my insights in a visually persuasive format, I have nothing.  There is a lot of discussion around data and data source integrity, around choosing the right databases, cutting through clutter and using video or layered graphics to tell the story. For a while now, I have been bothered by the disconnect by what firms think they need to do, what clients say they want and what those of us tasked with making it happen on the business side of law can actually accomplish.   We need to bridge the gap.  For me that means we need more, better, clearer context. 
When we teach information literacy in firms to help our clients navigate our information warehouses from the library, KM, business development, etc. we share what's available, what sources have been vetted and what process are used to share and archive.  Rarely do we indicate how the information is used or connected to other sources of intelligence within the firm.  When we talk CRM strategy for example, we talk about the need to share contacts for marketing lists not for relationship intelligence and building a unified approach to client service.  We talk about what tool to select, how to use the tools, refine workflows, clean and maintain the date but rarely touch on the why. And when we implicitly know the why, we make the assumption that everyone understands the task at hand as fully as we do. The why part of the equation is strategic; part of a bigger whole that not everyone will have access to or understand, but that's the "location" or the context we should strive to own within our firms. 

When I look at the list of "must have topics" at the upcoming AALL meeting for example the topics are very important, practical, and necessary but majority of the topics tactical and process driven.  Same could be said when I look at the upcoming LMA conference offerings. This makes sense, it is easier to teach someone how to do something than to have a philosophical and often culturally sensitive conversation around the why. Teaching context is not something we can do easily, it's like showing your work when you do a math problem. Sometimes you can draft a number sentence but most of the time it just makes overt sense that 2+2 = 4, don't make me explain it, just take the answer as it is, and consider the task complete.  I haven't completely worked it out yet, but solving for and teaching context is a mash-up of design thinking, Gail Fairhurst's concepts of framing against a backdrop of law firm cultural hegemony and the limited agency of allied professionals to turn context into action (though you could draw parallels to other industries as well). As I spend what's left of my morning wading through my daily tasks, I will strive to find the context in each task as it relates to whole, and I encourage you to do the same.



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Why All the AI Hype in Legal? - A Response to Ron Friedmann

Ron Friedman recently posted the following video to twitter.
Ron and I have talked about this a lot, going back to my AI posts last December when I suggested that we stop using the term Artificial Intelligence in legal because it causes more confusion, consternation, and general trouble than it's worth.

First, to answer Ron's question, why all the AI hype in the legal market?  The AI hype isn't happening in the legal market.  It's happening throughout the world.  It's now in our homes with Nest Thermostats and Hue light bulbs.  It's in our pockets with Siri, and in our offices with Alexa. It's the basis of one of the most engrossing shows on HBO right now, Westworld.  And we still have brilliant people like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking warning that AI will likely kill us if we don't take precautions. What we're seeing in the legal market is just bleeding-through from the massive hype happening in the rest of the world.  And I think it's all about to come crashing down.  We will shortly enter into the great Trough of Disillusionment for AI.

I don't say that because I think AI will fail to live up to its promise.  On the contrary, I think AI will way outstrip our current expectations.  However, we humans are fickle.  Our expectations shift quickly. Louis C.K. explains it best in his routine about Airplane WiFi.  In the AI space, this same fickle attitude leads to an interesting phenomenon, over time we adjust what we believe qualifies as AI.  The more common a technology becomes the less we believe it to be Artificial Intelligence. 

Google isn't considered AI, but it 'knows' what you're typing as you type, and then it filters a large portion of the web to give you the most relevant pages.  It would have easily been seen as AI twenty years ago.  Siri and Alexa personal assistants respond to voice commands and can return information instantly or actually perform tasks online, but they are considered borderline AI at best these days. Completely self-driving automobiles are still seen as Science Fiction and therefore are solidly in the AI column, but I predict they will NOT widely be considered AI by the time they are commercially available.  AI is a moving target. By the time a technology is commercialized it's no longer considered Artificial Intelligence.  Consequently, we fickle humans are consistently underwhelmed by the promise of AI even as AI fundamentally changes the world around us.

The same is happening in legal right now.  AI is all over the place from e-discovery to contract review, due diligence, and data extraction, to my own company's expert system platform.  (Oh, BTW.  I've got another new job since last I wrote.) But the more we see of it, the less we believe it to truly represent Artificial Intelligence.  AI is always just beyond the horizon.  Just on the other side of the next technological breakthrough.  It's always something just slightly better than what we can do right now.

So I say, "Don't buy into the AI hype!"  Not because AI is not real, but because hyperbolic expectations for AI lead to a belief in 'magical technology'. And expectations of 'magic yet to come' will prevent you from taking advantage of the remarkable and capable technology that is absolutely available today. 

It's not 'Artificial' Intelligence, it's Your Intelligence: Augmented, Enhanced, and Multiplied.

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Evolution of Service Models in the New Law Library

[Ed. Note: Please welcome guest-blogger, and fellow law-librarian, Marcia Burris. Marcia is currently a Senior Consultant with HBR Consulting. - GL]

While the rate of change in the legal industry seems to be accelerating, change is not new to law librarians. In fact, those of us who have been around long enough have been hearing for the past 20 years or so that the days of the law library are numbered. It is certainly true that the use of books has declined in recent years, and the focus of librarians has shifted away from traditional print maintenance roles toward supporting attorneys through the delivery of information in increasingly digital environments. However, this article is not about the decline of print. We’ve already been there, done that, and it’s time to move on to a new topic.

But change continues, and so do concerns about the role of law librarians. In recent years, the “new” role of librarians as expert online researchers and content managers seems to be threatened again, this time by the trend toward creation of self-service research environments in which content is served up so conveniently and intuitively, that even the busiest attorneys (who necessarily have other things to do besides learn new search platforms) can find useful, on-point information without the guidance of an expert to lead them through the digital maze. The well-recognized expertise of librarians in organizing and directing users to content seems likely, in the view of some observers, to be supplanted by newer expert systems.

As the culture of attorney self-service expands, the question is circulating again about what the future of law librarians will look like – if we have a future.

Of course, smart information delivery systems must be built by experts, and customized to the needs of specific firms by professionals who understand their legal practice areas and unique firm cultures and deployed to end-users whose interest and comfort with change vary widely. Law librarians are uniquely suited to roles in developing and deploying new resources through their combination of legal knowledge, technology skills, and emotional intelligence.

Even after the new tools have been deployed and attorneys trained in how to use them, librarians continue to play a role in delivering service through these platforms, including performing on-demand research and providing alerts, platform customizations and other services to support end-users. For example, although push technologies for current awareness are typically customizable by individual end users, and some attorneys like to be hands-on with these tasks, more often the creation and curation of alerts falls to library professionals who can do so efficiently and accurately, saving attorney time for other work – such as, well, practicing law.

While librarians are invaluable to developing and supporting self-service technologies, that is not the only role in which they are proving their value.

During the recent SLA Webinar on Evolving Libraries, Kris Martin, one of my co-workers at HBR, discussed an evolution of library services that we have been tracking along two distinct paths, toward either a User-leveraged service model, such as the primarily self-service environment described above, or an Expert-leveraged model.

While the User-leveraged model is characterized by increased investment in new technologies and librarian support for user-enabling applications, with a subsequent decrease in direct research, the role of librarians as researchers continues strong in firms where an Expert-leveraged service model has evolved. In these firms, the research skills of librarians are increasingly utilized as library professionals are embedded within practice groups and other administrative departments, where their familiarity with a wide range of resources and subject-specific knowledge combine to create competitive advantage. In legal practice groups, embedded librarians enjoy inclusion on client teams where they contribute research efficiency and value to client matters. In administrative teams, librarians work closely with marketing and others to provide research and analysis in support of their firm’s strategic business objectives. In addition to providing traditional research expertise, embedded librarians are frequently called upon to provide more sophisticated information analysis.
Both user-leveraged and expert-leveraged service models change the role of the librarian, demanding greater expertise and a pro-active approach to meeting firm information needs.

And there is one more high-value librarian role overarching both models, that of the Generalist/Knower of Many Things. While generalist researcher positions are declining as firms move toward user-leveraged or expert-leveraged service models, the individual with knowledge and experience across a variety of legal subjects, technology, and research functions continues to play an essential role in developing library and information services which support law practice efficiency and innovation. The true generalist who is involved in many areas of research work and engaged in conversations throughout the firm is uniquely positioned to identify opportunities. If innovation is about connecting dots, who is better positioned to deliver value than the individual whose vantage point includes multiple dots?

Firm leaders who empower their librarians to contribute value through support of user-leveraged or expert-leveraged service models and through direct involvement in the creation of systems to support practice and efficiency efforts, will find the “library” to be a valuable asset for many years to come.

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