Legal research can be a time-consuming and thus expensive part of a legal matter. When one brings a legal matter to an attorney, often the attorney will need to research the relevant law, which can be evolving or changing, and can influence the matter strategy and outcome.
Historically, legal research was conducted using a series of hard copy legal reference books. Traditionally, one would start with the “digests” (a type of annotated index), which would identify case opinions that would then need to be retrieved from the “reporters” (volumes housing case opinions) and read for relevance. Once the relevant cases were identified, they would need to be “shepardized” (another index-like publication) to determine if any additional cases addressed the relevant case since the publication of the reporter. The process was laborious and time-consuming. Several decades ago, the publisher of the digests and reporters computerized these volumes using key terms that allowed the databases to be searched electronically. The results of the searches listed all cases, statutes and other legal publications that included the key term(s). While this cut down on the time and expense of legal research, the process still involved reading many, if not all, of the cases in the search results, which could be numerous.
Now, Daniel Lewis, a recent Stanford Law School graduate, is reportedly developing a program that produces electronic search results in a visual graphic that purportedly identifies related cases by importance. In the May 2014 issue of the ABA Journal, Robert Ambrogi reports on various visual law services in his article, Visual Law Services Are Worth A Thousand Words – And Big Money. One of these such services is Daniel Lewis’ Ravel:
Ravel does not look like traditional legal research platforms. The difference is its visual presentation of search results. Rather than display a stack of text entries, Ravel draws a visual map of the results, showing the relationships among cases and their relative importance to each other.
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Lines radiate out of the circles, connecting each case to others it cites and that cite it. The thickness of the line indicates the depth of treatment. Hover your pointer over a case and its information shows in the right pane. Click it to get a list of every case cited within it. Double-click it to get the full text.
If successful, Ravel (and other re-imagined legal research technologies) would streamline legal research. Hopefully, this will allow for more accurate research results and cost savings for legal consumers.
You’ve got options. The Center for Legal Practice Reform can help you navigate the attorney/client relationship and level the playing field. Call LPR today for a free consultation – (301) 351-7970.