As many of you that follow 3 Geeks know, I’m a big fan of the products that are coming out of Stanford University’s CODEX program. One of the latest insights comes from a CODEX fellow, Casetext, with their new CARA platform. Casetext’s VP of Legal Research, Pablo Arredondo, has been talking with me about CARA for a number of months now, and I’ve seen a few versions as he prepped CARA for release. If you’ve ever seen Pablo demo this new product, then you know how excited he is about the value that he believes this brings to legal research.
What is CARA? CARA is a ‘brief-as-query’ legal research tool, in which instead of using a keyword query you drop an entire brief in as the input. Users can input a brief in either Word or PDF format. From my use of it, I would explain CARA as a tool to analyse your brief (or the other side’s brief) to find potential missing points of law, or alternative arguments not cited within the brief.
CARA data mines the inputted brief and uses the gathered information to form a sort of ‘mega-query’ that runs against Casetext’s database of case law. CARA takes a look at the brief and analyzes how much cited cases are discussed within the brief as well as the other text within the brief. Arredondo explained to me that “[t]he analysis CARA runs looks not only at direct citation relationships (Case A cites to Case B) but also ‘soft citation’ relationships – Case A doesn’t cite Case B directly, but Case C cites to both A and B.” He also says that, “CARA also discounts heavily cited procedural cases like Celotex” so that these citations do not skew the results. Attorneys and researchers upload their drafts to check for missing cases before filing and uploading their briefs, and they check their opponent’s briefs to see if there are missing cases that they might be able to exploit.
|Screenshot of CARA results.
CARA outputs a list of cases, all linked to the full text on Casetext. The results are displayed along side
- concise summary of case holding;
- most cited passage from the case;
- link to a law firm client alert discussing the case.
Because attorneys are uploading drafts/work product, there is always a question of “who can see my draft?” Arredondo told me that “Casetext has applied stringent security to CARA. Inputted briefs are not stored; once the data is extracted the brief is deleted. The reports CARA generates are accessible under a unique URL with a long hash; only those possessing the link can see the report.”
A geek like me loves to learn about how the back-end of these systems work, so bear with me for a paragraph as I repeat Pablo’s explanation of how CARA processes the brief that you drop in for analysis. CARA uses what is called topic modeling system (latent semantic analysis) to sort results based on how well they match the topics in the brief.In law-librarian terms, this means that CARA uses the full text of the brief and compares it to the full text of existing cases, looking for similarities in both legal terms and regular nouns. It’s not magic, it’s math. But, sometimes math can look like magic. Alright… end of uber-geek discussion.
The second serious question that most of us ask when we see products like this is “does it replace Westlaw or Lexis?” The answer is simply, no, and it is not meant to. CARA is designed to supplement traditional research systems. It can catch cases you missed using regular tools or help you find cases that you would have found anyway, only much faster. In these modern days of “efficiency” in legal practice, getting to the answer, faster, is a competitive advantage, and that is what CARA sets out to do.
Pablo mentioned that CARA will be made freely available to the judiciary, and that trials for firms or individuals are available for anyone who wishes to evaluate CARA. He said that there were no strings attached to the trial, and that you can contact him for details on the trial at firstname.lastname@example.org.