Thursday, October 29, 2015

Ravel and Harvard "Free the Law": You've Read the News, Now Watch The Movie: Spine-tingling Scenes of Libra-cide

Today the New York Times reported that Harvard Law School announced that they were collaborating with Ravel Law to digitize over 44,000 volumes of US caselaw including state court reports predating the US Constitution. Their goal is to "Free the Law" and make all of the existing federal and state caselaw available and searchable to anyone for free. Ravel is an innovative tech
ouch! I can barely look... (c) Books Kraft
start-up which applies a unique search algorithm to caselaw research and delivers results in stunning visual displays. A companion product "Judges Analytics" provides "precedential analysis" of judges opinions which can help a lawyer understand which cases and language are support a "winning" argument.

Harvard has posted a fascinating and "spine tingling" (book lovers be warned) video  documenting the process on Youtube The video also includes interviews with Daniel Lewis Founder of Ravel Law and Jonathan Zittrain, Harvard Law Library Director and Law Professor.

I spoke with Daniel Lewis today regarding the project and several things surprised me.
  • This enterprise has not received any special funding from any foundations.
  • They will be scanning 44,000 volumes of caselaw and are currently 20% completed.
  • Librarians are adding metadata to the volumes as they are scanned.
    Ravel Founders Daniel Lewis and Nik Reed
  • The cases will be full text searchable but each case will also have a link to an image of the original document.
  • The complete archive of California cases will be complete in November.
  • New York cases will be added by the end of this year.
  • The remaining states will be added on a rolling basis with an expected completion date of 2017.
  • When I asked how this project differed from  the caselaw available on Google Scholar, Daniel pointed out that Google only covers cases back to 1950 and it makes no representation of completeness. The Ravel Harvard project is aiming for comprehensiveness and historical completeness.
  • Given the size and age of Harvard's collection, I wouldn't be surprised if the  project uncovers cases which are not currently included in any commercial database and which may be completely new to legal scholars.
  • They hope that states will accelerate and collaborate with them in increasing the availability of state primary source materials. In order to create an incentive for states, Ravel will give states complete access to the state's historical  archive if the state makes its caselaw available in digital format.
  • The Ravel database will be free to the public. Commercial subscribers will get the Harvard materials as they are loaded and will continue to have access to advanced functionality such as Judges Analytics.
  • They will not make the database available to commercial publishers for eight years.

What about statutes? While there are no current plans to tackle statutes, Lewis hopes that the Free the law project will inspire state to start making their caselaw available in searchable digital formats. Once the caselaw project is completed, Lewis hopes that states will also add their statutes. Lewis would love to tackle loading  archives of state statutes.

Congratulations to Ravel and Harvard Law -- awe-some project.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Practice Innovations: Predictive Analytics,Global Research Teams, Project Management, Pricing Professionals, Metrics

The October issue of Thomson Reuters of Practice Innovations is out.This issue focuses on emerging issues and transformative trends in law firms. I am particularly happy to highlight an article by John Hokkanen on predictive analytics, I first met John at a Lawyers Technology Roundtable meeting in the early 1990s. After practicing law John became at early Knowledge Management leader and evangelist at Alton & Bird and Latham & Watkins in the 1990's, He has now turned his focus to predictive analytics in financial services and his article urges law firm leaders to recognize the financial and competitive opportunities which predictive analytics offer in specific areas of law firm administration and practice.

By John Hokkanen, Risk Programmer/Analyst Contractor at First Hawaiian Bank, Honolulu, HI

By Scott Bailey, Global Research Services Director (US LLP), Washington, DC; Philip Duffy, Deputy Global Research Services Director (UK LLP), Manchester, England; Kelly Underwood, Senior Researcher (AU LLP) Perth, Australia

 By Carla Landry, Senior Consultant, LawVision Group LLC, Washington, DC

 By Don Philmlee, Legal Technology Consultant, Washington, DC

 By Lisa Gianakos, Director of Knowledge Management, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, Washington, DC

By V. Mary Abraham, Above and Beyond KM, New York, NY


Friday, October 23, 2015

Lex Machina Launches Custom Insights: Data Mining for the Impatient Lawyer

Lex Machina has taken the most mundane of legal data sets-- docket entries-- and spun it into a
goldmine of legal insights. Lex Machina is not a hard product to use, but it offers a dizzying array of options which a lawyer with minimal training can master.
This week Lex Machina announced the  release of   a 'suite of custom insight apps' which make it even easier. It is essentially a very sophisticated kind of "data mining for idiots." With the launch of Custom Insight Apps,  Lex Machina is offering subscribers the zero training way to build custom charts providing high value insights.
The Suite includes an early case assessment  tool, a motion kickstarter and a patent portfolio evaluator. Let me clarify that these are desktop "apps" not mobile apps for a smartphone,
The Early Case Assessor enables a lawyer to enter the name of  a plaintiff and their counsel and  generate  litigation history for client and quickly assess their law firms history representing the client.
Early Case Assessor

 The Motion Kickstarter enables a lawyer to compare successful and unsuccessful motions before a judge. It can also generate the specific judge's average time to grant or deny motions.

The Patent Portfolio Evaluator gives attorney the complete litigation history for an entire patent portfolio in one report including all district , PTAB, and ITC cases for each patent, with outcomes,

Lawyers Want a Lightswitch not A Powerplant
Lex Machina has made the impossible--- easy and then made "the easy with some effort"---
effortless.  Lex Machina appears to be acknowledging that there are really two main obstacles to getting lawyers to adopt new technologies. The first is price and the second is the learning curve. Even if the learning curve is small -- the "attention gap" becomes an unbreachable wall to adoption.

Twenty years ago when working as  colleagues in an AmLaw 100 firm, legal consultant, Ron Friedmann and I identified simplicity of  "the light switch"  as the best model for a technology which lawyers will easily adopt. I have spent much of my career inventing "one click" solutions which can bring lawyers directly  to the buried treasure inside complex legal systems.  Lex Machina although a relatively young company -- has learned a lesson which the dominant  legal information service providers  still haven't mastered.... you just can't make things too easy for lawyers. Yes they are smart enough to learn how to run the power plant but they would prefer to just hit the light switch.

You can try out the apps here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

BloombergBNA Launches Global Privacy and Data Security Research and Practice Platform

Privacy and Data Security are two  of the hottest topics impacting both law firms and their clients.

BloombergBNA,  like their competitors continues to scan the landscape for new opportunities to help  lawyers  tackle emerging areas of law while working smarter. BloombergBNA has been publishing  several newsletters on these topics  (The Privacy & Security Law Report, The Privacy Law Watch and The World Data Protection Report). The editorial expertise  which created  these publications has  been leveraged to build a specialty practice center which offer new content sets and  interactive. Two weeks ago BloombergBNA launched Bloomberg Law: Privacy & Data Security.

Bloomberg didn’t just rely on anecdote and news headlines. They commissioned a study  from the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). The results of the survey suggest that corporations are currently underestimating he risks posed by employees and vendors and overestimating the risk of foreign hackers. President of Bloomberg Law, David Perla commented that it is “time to go beyond the headlines to understand privacy issues at a deeper level, and the revelatory findings in this survey are a step in that direction.” The next step was obviously -- creating a product to help law firms and in-house counsel manage the risk.

The Challenge of Privacy and Data Security Research

Privacy and data security are also among the trickiest issues to research and track legislative developments. Unlike a topic like “corporations”  where laws have been consolidated into a unified statutory codification, data security and privacy issues are “sprinkled” throughout numerous titles and volumes of a single state code.

Privacy and data protection are also truly global issues.  Tracking these issues across multiple states and countries is particularly challenging. The BloombergBNA Privacy & Data Security product offers tools to simplify the research. Each country has very different regulatory schemes. BBNA uses big data technology to aggregate and normalize regulations and laws from around the globe. The Privacy & Data Security  Product Director Brian Kudowitz, described the product as attempting to shrink the problem of global research and add transparency.    

The Current News "Heat Map"
 The product is organized into four main functional areas Stay Current  for news, Research for primary sources, Advise for specialized insights , Plan & Execute  for drafting policies. The product  offers some terrific interactive tools and  nice graphic displays. My favorite feature is the interactive news “heat map” which shows were specific issues are “hot” around the globe.

CURRENT NEWS – offers a global news “heat map” which aggregates stories written by BloombergBNA reporters who identify privacy and data issues from around the globe.

News results link to related news stories easy access. In Country experts offer a risk and enforcement environment analysis for each country and links to primary sources.
ADVISE offers country profiles, practice portfolios, workplace requirements, global data protection and treaties.

 RESEARCH: resources include statutes, regulations, caselaw. Agency materials, Non-US statutes link to laws posted on each  countries’ website:


  • “Chart builders” – provide instant comparisons of global and state laws on specific issues. Two Amlaw 100 firms contributed surveys.(DLA Piper provided that Data Security survey and Morgan Lewis and Bockius  created the Breach Notification survey. Charts can be exported to excel. Chart builders show code section and links to primary law.
  • “Upcoming enactments” provide information on laws which have been passed but not yet enacted.—provides future enactment dates.
  • “In practice” offers model polices ( Drafting privacy policies,. Managing Data Risk in M&A,. Managing a Data Breach and drafting commentaries.)
Upcoming Enactments Chart

 Access to the product. All Bloomberg Law subscribers will get access to the Privacy and Data Security  product at no additional cost. The product can also be purchased separately from BloombergBNA.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Breaking News: Thomson Reuters and IBM to Collaborate on Watson Cognitive Solutions

Thomson Reuters announced today that they have entered into a collaboration with IBM to deliver cognitive technology solutions to their customers. Before the legal profession falls into a swoon  of anticipation ---lets be clear. The press release makes no mention of the legal market in particular. Thomson Reuters is a very large multinational organization that operates in many sectors, not just legal. It is an exciting development nonetheless. Westlaw has been a pioneer in natural language research technologies. Combining  Augmented Intelligence  with Westlaw's terabytes of structured and coded legal and business data suggests this could be a game changing combination.

This "infiltration" approach to the legal market may make more sense than trying to sell a custom Watson project to law firms.  I recently spoke to a seasoned technology sales executive who voiced frustration at the difficulty of selling high-ticket, innovative technologies to law firms. Law firms are reluctant to invest big bucks in speculative technologies --- even when those technologies can promise long term rewards. Another law firm consultant described law firms as suffering from a "let's be second" mentality. No one really wants to be the first to make large investments in the unknown.  IBM Watson technology is very expensive. Every firm would basically have to build and train their own  custom iteration of Watson. To my knowledge only one or two of the Global 100 law firms have invested money in exploring Watson technology. I am not aware of any actual deployments.

A "passive" introduction of Watson technology through an installed based of  Westlaw products will broaden the understanding of augmented intelligence applications in the practice of law. Perhaps IBM is "softening the ground" in hopes of selling custom Watson solutions to law firms in the future.

Here is some key language from the press release:

Thomson Reuters will explore the application of Watson technology to key industry market opportunities to leverage deep content analytics, natural language processing, decision support and evidence-based learning to enable Thomson Reuters customers to derive greater insight and workflow efficiency.

Here is the Press Release:

 Thomson Reuters and IBM Collaborate to Deliver Watson Cognitive Computing Technology

Oct 08, 2015
Thomson Reuters and IBM Collaborate to Deliver Watson Cognitive Computing Technology

Thomson Reuters to deploy Watson technology to enhance customer solutions

NEW YORK — Thomson Reuters, the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals, and IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced they have entered into an agreement to enhance customer solutions across Thomson Reuters using Watson.

The collaboration underscores the ongoing commitment by Thomson Reuters to deliver innovative technology solutions within specific industry domains to its customers via its in-house technology development, as well as through key strategic collaborations.

“Thomson Reuters helps customers make critical business decisions by applying cutting-edge technology and domain expertise to complex sets of data and information,” said Brian Scanlon, chief strategy officer, Thomson Reuters. “Our work with IBM to apply Watson is a natural complement to our market-leading customer solutions.”

“Working with Thomson Reuters, and their vast trove of data, is an incredible opportunity to combine Watson’s cognitive capabilities with a global leader in decision making solutions across science, legal, tax, and finance,” said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president, IBM Watson. “The result will be accelerated discoveries for the professionals that rely on these important information solutions, ultimately bringing new levels of speed and precision to critical decisions.”

Thomson Reuters will explore the application of Watson technology to key industry market opportunities to leverage deep content analytics, natural language processing, decision support and evidence-based learning to enable Thomson Reuters customers to derive greater insight and workflow efficiency.

Thomson Reuters
 Thomson Reuters is the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. We combine industry expertise with innovative technology to deliver critical information to leading decision makers in the financial and risk, legal, tax and accounting, intellectual property and science and media markets, powered by the world's most trusted news organization. Thomson Reuters shares are listed on the Toronto and New York Stock Exchanges. For more information, go to

IBM Watson: Pioneering a New Era of Computing
 Watson is the first open cognitive computing technology platform and represents a new era in computing where systems understand the world in the way that humans do: through senses, learning, and experience. Watson continuously learns, gaining in value and knowledge over time, from previous interactions. With the help of Watson, organizations are harnessing the power of cognitive computing to transform industries, help professionals do their jobs better, and solve important challenges.

To advance Watson, IBM has two dedicated business units: Watson, established for the development of cloud-delivered cognitive computing technologies that represent the commercialization of "artificial intelligence" or "AI" across a variety of industries, and Watson Health, dedicated to improving the ability of doctors, researchers and insurers and other related health organizations to surface new insights from data to and deliver personalized healthcare

For more information on IBM Watson, visit: and

Join the conversation at #ibmwatson. Follow Watson on Facebook and see Watson on YouTube and Flickr.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Impact in High Places: Law Librarians Influence US Supreme Court Policy on Link Rot and Legal Issues

For the second time in 2015, The United States Supreme Court is relying on the advice of law librarians. (Ok they probably rely on the advice of the terrific team of the  Supreme Court Librarians all the time -- but in this post  I am referring to advice coming from librarians working for other institutions). Today a New York Times story Supreme Court Plans to Highlight  Revisions in Their Opinions  notes changes in opinion revision and internet citation policies. Until now it has been a common practice for for the US Supreme Court to issue corrected slip opinions without public notice of the changes. The Court will now acknowledge the changes on their website.

The Court is now taking steps to address link rot. "Link rot" refers to the removal of or changes to cited materials which render the citations unusable or unreliable. The Supreme Court  policy  cited a study  “Something Rotten in the State of Legal Citation.” by two librarians from the John Marshall School of Law, Raizel Liebler  and June Liebert. The study noted:  “It is disturbing that even at the Supreme Court, where creating and citing precedent is of the utmost importance, citations often fail to point the researcher to the authority on which the court based its decision.”  According to the study 29% of the internet citations in US Supreme Court opinions written between 1996 and 2011 were broken.  Liebert  who was previously the CIO at John Marshall School of Law, is now the Firmwide Director of Library and Research Services at  Amlaw 100 firm, SidleyAustin.

The US Supreme Court has now created a new page "Internet Sources Cited in Opinions." The Court will provide a list of all internet sources cited during the term. The link will include  an image of the page as it existed at the time it was cited.

Librarian Cited in ACA Opinion King v Burwell

Back in June, Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion in King v Burwell which cited a scholarly article, “A Legislative History of the Affordable Care Act: How Legislative Procedure Shapes Legislative History,” written by  John Canaan, Research and Instructional Services Librarian , at Drexel University School of Law.   The Robert's opinion cited Canaan’s observation that the drafting of the ACA strayed from “the traditional legislative process” because Congress wrote key portions of the Affordable Care Act behind closed doors.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

IBM Watson - Not the Robot Apocalypse! -- AALL Spectrum Relaunches with A Technology Focused Debut Issue

Back in July, I hosted a program on IBM Watson at the American Association of Law Libraries Conference in Philadelphia.

Kyla Moran of IBM Watson Team at AALL

I wrote an article about the program: " Hand in Hand with IBM Watson: How Will Augmented Intelligence will Transform the Way We Work?"  which has been published as the cover story in the September/October issue of AALL Spectrum.

"Ever since IBM Watson beat Jeopardy champion Ken  Jennings on  the television game show, the legal press ha been a wash with articles speculating on how soon Watson will replace both librarians and lawyerrs. I had the privilege of moderating a  ”hot topic” program at the 2015 AALL Annual Meeting & Conference that explores the potential  impact of IBM Watson on the legal profession. Our speaker,  Kyla Moran, senior consultant on the Watson Industry Leadership team at IBM gave a presentation titled: “Doctor, Lawyer. Contestant, Chef: How New Cognitive Technology will Drive the  Transformation of Society as we Know it.” Read the full article  here.

Special kudos to  Spectrum Editorial Director, Catherine Lemmer and Marketing and Communications Manager, Ashley St. John, the Spectrum Editorial Board*  and AALL leadership on the spectacular redesign on the magazine. The "Technology Issue" also Includes:

Disclosure:* I am on the Spectrum Editorial Board but I claim no credit - the redesign was in the works before I joined the Board.