Robert Ambrogi, The 10 Most Important Legal Technology Developments of 2016:
1. The legal industry gets smart about artificial intelligence. In my top 10 list last year, I considered it big news that AI had come to legal research in the form of ROSS Intelligence, a startup that uses IBM’s Watson platform to answer lawyers’ natural-language legal research questions. Just as last year closed out, another AI company, Premonition — which says it is applying AI to the largest legal database in the world — announced a seed round at a $100 million valuation.
In 2016, AI in legal grew by leaps and bounds. The year started with the announcement by none other than legal-research giant Thomson Reuters that it was getting into the AI game, using the IBM Watson technology to develop products specific to the legal vertical. At the time, it said it would be rolling out the first of these products in beta by the second half of the year. This week, a TR spokesperson confirmed it is currently testing a beta AI product with nine customers with the goal of launching the product by the middle of 2017. While details of the product remain sketchy, the spokesperson said it targets the regulatory space and will greatly simplify several common and complicated workflows.
Then, in a notable development in March, Deloitte and Kira Systems announced an alliance “to bring the power of machine learning to the workplace, an innovation that could help free workers from the tedium of reviewing contracts and other documents.” From there, it was a year full of AI news – an AI tool to help diagram intricate corporate structures, a self-service AI portal where law firms can configure custom AI tasks, and more.
Meanwhile, ROSS has gone from clever idea to actual product, signing deals in 2016 with several major law firms, including Baker & Hostetler, Latham & Watkins, von Briesen & Roper and Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice. ...
4. Analytics expand their reach. One of my top-10 developments last year was the growing significance of data analytics in law. Well, if it was a big deal last year, it was an even bigger one this year.
Last year saw the acquisition of analytics platform Lex Machina by LexisNexis. At the time, Lex Machina focused solely on intellectual property law. But that, I wrote last year, was just the tip of the iceberg. This year, under LexisNexis’s ownership, Lex Machina began its expansion into other areas of law – first to securities law in July and then to antitrust in November, with other practice areas to come. It also launched various apps to make its analytics easier for lawyers to use.
Many others have also been building out their analytics capabilities. In October, Bloomberg Law introduced Litigation Analytics to provide insights on federal judges and law firms in the federal courts. Earlier this month, Ravel Law – which already had a Judge Analytics product — launched its Court Analytics to apply analytics tools to an entire court, including all its cases and judges.
The significance of analytics in law is that they provide a depth of perspective never before available. Whether you are working with litigation dockets, e-discovery collections, or transactional documents, analytics enable you to discover patterns and relationships that can enhance your understanding and strategy. ...
8. All U.S. case law gets digitized. At last! In 1995, I wrote an article surveying the availability of court decisions online. I found nine courts with opinions online: the Supreme Court, three U.S. circuits, and five state appellate courts. For finding current court opinions, that state of affairs changed pretty quickly. When I did the same survey three years later, there was hardly an appellate court in the nation, federal or state, whose current opinions were not available online. (Although back then, courts rarely posted their opinions themselves; it was more commonly done through academic or private sites.)
We’ve come a long way since 1995 in access to court opinions online. Yet, surprisingly, access has remained largely limited to current cases and relatively recent historical cases. Nowhere online has there been free and open access to the entire archive of American case law.
Until this year.
In October 2015, Harvard Law School and Ravel Law today announced the Caselaw Access Project, an initiative to digitize and make available to the public for free Harvard’s entire collection of U.S. case law, which it says is the most comprehensive and authoritative database of American law and cases available anywhere outside the Library of Congress. The collection contains 40,000 books and 40 million pages of decisions from the federal courts and the courts of all 50 states, including original materials from cases that predate the U.S. Constitution. Throughout 2016, Harvard has been busily scanning these volumes. As they are digitized, they are added to the Ravel Law legal research platform, where they are fully searchable and free to anyone. The scanning is nearly complete, I believe, and Ravel has been adding cases all year.
It’s taken us more than two decades to get here, but soon we’ll have free online access to the entire body of U.S. case law. At last.