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It’s been a surprise to legal tech blogger Bob Ambrogi that legal research has become a hotbed of new entrants with novel approaches to legal research.
“If five years ago you had said to me, ‘What’s one area of technology that going to see a significant degree of innovation over the next few years?’ I think legal research probably would have been the last one I would have identified,” he says.
In an industry that was dominated by two major players just a decade ago, “startups are reimagining, rethinking the way we do research,” he says, which is impacting those legacy companies.
Casetext, for example, created the case analysis research assistant a few years ago, which allowed an attorney to upload a brief, and the software automatically provides a list of cases to review, including summaries and key passages, without the lawyer ever entering a search term. WestLaw recently announced a similar product, says Ambrogi.
For Andrew Arruda, CEO of Ross Intelligence, the opportunity to improve upon traditional legal research came from seeing what deep learning an artificial intelligence method was able to do. Creating more than a basic question-answer machine, deep learning allowed for a query to include the legal question and also the facts and posture of the case.
As companies experiment with AI and other methods to improve legal research, users need to be cognizant that different platforms can return different results, note both Ambrogi and Arruda.
“Somebody who wants to be doing a thorough research job, probably should not be relying on one research platform,” says Ambrogi.
Arruda agrees, but he says the challenge is that many companies charge high fees to access their software, so having multiple accounts may not be possible to a firm on a budget.
Before spending any money, he recommends using the free trials offered by many legal research companies to make a decision of whether the software meets an attorney’s needs. As the market develops, Arruda expects more trials will become available and costs will drop, allowing attorneys to better experiment with legal research’s cutting edge.
Looking further down the path, Ambrogi thinks the industry is just at the beginning of what AI can do for legal research. He anticipates software that will better contextualize cases in the facts and circumstances of an immediate case.
However, we don’t need to wait to witness AI’s impacts.
“What we are already seeing is that legal research is being shaped by AI,” says Arruda,” and actually improving the end results for clients, which I think is, and should always be, the end goal.”