Lexis and Westlaw laid the foundations for today’s online research market in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Their dominance in the legal research arena was challenged on two fronts in the 2010’s. First they were challenged by the emergence of two full service competitors: Bloomberg Law and Fastcase. More surprising was the disruptive impact of the disgruntled, entrepreneur lawyers with a good idea and some venture capital who invented some completely new ways of approaching research and delivering insights..
Spinning Analytics Gold From Dockets. Lexis and WESTLAW were in the docket business for decades but it Lex Machina (now owned by Lexis Nexis) which invented a way for lawyers to use analytics for pitches and litigation strategy.
Lex Machina took the most mundane of legal data sets– docket entries and spun it into a goldmine of legal insights. Lex Machina started as a public interest project at Stamford Law school in 2006. The product leverages machine learning and natural language processing, to normalize, structure, and analyze raw data from millions of case dockets and documents. Lex Machina’s Chief Evangelist and General Counsel, Owen Byrd often described Lex Machina as liberating lawyers from “anec-data” and offering them actual insights into litigation trends. For the first time lawyers could have desktop access to a tool which provided insights into motion grant rates of judges and districts, motion grant timing or the likelihood of damage awards for specific types of litigation. A lawyer can prepare for a pitch knowing how their firm’s experience compares to an adversary for a specific type of litigation or before a specific judge.
Market Impact: Bloomberg Law, Westlaw Edge and Fastcase/Docket Alarm as well as niche competitors such as Gavelytics and Docket Navigator continue to expand the reach and functionality of litigation analytics.
The Brief as Query. Until the launch of Casetext CARA, lawyers relied on traditional citators to identify all relevant precedent for a brief. No prior technology analyzed the contents of a brief to identify missing precedent. The founders of Casetext invented a technique they call “the brief as query.” All a lawyer has to do is drag and drop a brief into the CARA analyzer. Instead of searching with keywords, CARA data-mines the brief by extracting both the text and the citations from the document. The CARA analysis looks at direct relationships and “implied” relationships between the cited cases in the brief and related opinions in the Casetext database. CARA uses latent semantic analysis to sort the results. The CARA results report includes a list of “suggested cases” not included in the brief and a CARA generated analysis of those cases. A concise summary includes a citation and the case holding derived from judicial “explanatory parentheticals.” CARA can also be used to analyze an opponent’s brief to identify vulnerabilities.
Market impact: Casetext’s CARA inspired lots of competitive product development. Ross launched Eva in 2018. Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg Law all showed their own version of brief analysis tools at AALL conference in July 2019.