Friday, August 29, 2014

Pacer Disrupting Big Data One Byte at aTime

Big Data Hits a Wall c. J O'Grady
The disruption of access to court dockets through Pacer has implications beyond the retrieval of dockets and documents.

The  Administrative Office of the US Courts announced on August 11th that archival dockets from 5 federal courts would no longer be available through Pacer. I contacted the Office of the US Courts and they explained that the problem was in fact the courts themselves. The courts including the Second Circuit had failed to upgrade their platforms and the older data was residing on a platform that was no longer compatible with Pacer.  The data which was no longer available from Pacer could be obtained directly from the courts.

The Big Data  Hits A Wall. The most shocking thing to me was the fact that a significant archive of federal court data was suddenly less available to the public for historical "big data" trend analysis.  Lexis, Westlaw and Blaw all have tools for litigation analysis and trending which can be used to create charts and analytics showing litigation trends by jurisdiction, judge, cause of action, law firm. Big data is an increasingly valuable commodity. In law firms it is a valuable source of competitive intelligence. The federal government has recently recognized the value of "big data" in public administration. In this case the Pacer data should be useful for the analysis and judicial administration and workload. Why are the courts failing to recognize the importance of maintaining robust archives of litigation data?

 Pacer has just handed legal publishers  a marketing strategy.  Commercial online services will have the complete archive which Pacer can no longer offer. In other words - you get what you pay for.  I contacted representatives from Lexis, Westlaw and BloombergBNA. Each  vendor had previously created their own archives of Pacer data so they will be able to continue to make all the data available in one place. The one exception they cited was older cases which  are currently active-- but this appears to be a small number of cases.
The more law firms focus more on efficiency, the less attractive the cobbling together research results from “free resources” becomes. Yes free research resources have a place in legal research but premium resources deliver robust and reliable access.The removal of Pacer data is a powerful illustration of the value of commercial publishers in maintaining access to data when public authorities fail to do so. Not only will the major vendors be able to provide access to the dockets and the documents, but they will have complete data archives for analysis of litigation trends. These comprehensive archives allow custom reports combining  data elements extracted from dockets: including judges rulings, company litigation, law firm representation, causes of action and jurisdiction.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ravel Law: Legal Research Radically Reimagined

It is an understatement to say that Ravel Law is not your father's research platform.
You are not just using a new product, you are entering the "world of Ravel"... and you need to check all your preconceptions about legal research at the door.

Ravel Law makes me feel old. It has some similarities to Fastcase but also some major differences. Both  products are the brainchild of young lawyers hellbent on reinventing legal research. Both developed their own innovative search engines and visual approaches to  displaying search results.

I have often wondered how young lawyers will understand legal research without benefit of taxonomical hierarchies, digests and headnotes. Only time with tell, but I have to give the Ravel innovators the benefit of the doubt and celebrate something that may "speak the language" of "born digital" generation of lawyers.

The Ravel Research Universe

Daniel Lewis co-founder of Ravel Law grew up in a family of lawyers. When he attended Stanford Law School he became convinced that the legal profession needed a new approach to legal research. He and  co-founder Nik Reed, a fellow Stanford law school alum developed Ravel in collaboration with students from the Design School at Stanford.

Lewis describes the Ravel Law platform as offering a new kind of analysis by using machine computing and data visualization. Ravel built a platform to appeal to younger lawyers. 

For those of us who learned research using taxonomical hierarchies, viewing research results on Ravel is like landing in an alternate universe. Interpreting  Ravel search results requires the learning a “visual language.”  Lewis believes that  Ravel’s landscape -- the visual display  of search results --conveys more information than can be displayed by  the traditional "results list of cases." This may be true but first you have to learn their "display language."
Key to the Ravel Universe:
  • Each circle represents a case
  • The size of the circle represents its importance
  • The Line is the citation
  • The thickness of the line represents the depth of treatment.
At the bottom of the screen you can display the chronology which shows the evolution of the law. The timeline  shows the whole universe of cases related to a search. Filters allow you to limit results by court level. 

The Radical Ravel Leap. Here’s where Ravel breaks with the competition. Ravel only displays the top 75 cases which result from the search. The assumption is  that the algorithm has gotten you the best cases in the top 75. This breakpoint  forces the  researcher to focus on the most highly relevant cases. It also requires complete trust in the search algorithm.The researcher can continually expand and refocus the search to include more cases.

Case with citation history display

Jump Cite Ranking. A "jump cite" refers to a reference to a specific issue within an opinion. The citators on Westlaw and Lexis both have systems for locating cited principles within a case, neither has developed a system for ranking these  specific internal citations. Ravel has developed a unique system for ranking jump cites.

Star Reading system. Ravel highlights the most relevant text in the jump cite in order to show the relevance of a particular page in a particular case. Lewis describes this as  “building out good and bad law on a page by page basis.” The star reading system assigns stars to each page of a case using a 1 to 5 star scale, depending on how many times that page has been cited to by other cases. A one-star page has been cited to at least 5 times, and a 5 star page has been cited to at least 2,000 times. The cases that get listed as citing to a particular page can then be ranked in two ways: 1) by date, 2) by rank (which means how many times that case has itself been cited).  

"Killer Ap" Coming Lewis gave me a preview of an exciting new feature which is not currently offered by any competitor. It is the kind of feature that law firm partners are likely to  want on their desktops. This new feature will  use a "big data"  analysis to  fill one of the voids  where lawyers rely on intuition and anecdote because they are lacking objective data.

Interaction vs Reading. Ravel unravels every preconception you have about legal research. The thing that will most likely  appeal to young lawyers is that Ravel begs you to interact with with it rather than read. The law still requires deep reading, analysing, distinguishing finer points of arguments. Will it seduce lawyers away from reading into focusing on narrower and narrower slices of text? The optimal legal skill set of the future will require both the ability to engage in visual data manipulation and reading full cases.

It is exciting and  also humbling for me to witness the birth of a new generation of legal research platforms. Ravel offers legal research reimagined ... untethered from the inherent constraints as well as the familiar conventions of research systems born of print.... Ravel Law opens up a brave new world of legal research for exploration...

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Law Firm Space Planning as a Knowledge Management Strategy

The knowledge-enabled productivity and financial rewards of radically redesigning law office space promise to be significant for law firms that have the courage to change.
 I recently published  an article   Law Firm Space Planning as a Knowledge Management Strategy in the July issue of Thomson Reuters Practice Innovations.

c. Thomson Reuters
Just as firms have been grappling with the billable hour for the past decade, the coming decade may be marked by the struggle to redefine the legal workplace. Office rent has been the second largest expense for law firms. Firms outside the US have already made significant strides in developing innovative space strategies. While cost reduction may be the primary incentive to reinvent the law office, firms should not overlook this as an opportunity to create "knowledge enabling" work environments...Read the complete article HERE.

This article was inspired by a presentation by Ivan Ross of Geyer Architects at the 2013 Janders Dean Knowledge Management Conference in Sydney, Australia. Additional thanks to Steve Martin of Gensler Architects for sharing his time and insights on space planning and design in US law firms and to Russ Weber my first architectural mentor.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

ALM Legal Intelligence 2014 Law Librarian Survey Trends:Embedding, CI, KM, Sole Providers

American Lawyer Media Legal Intelligence released the 2014 Law Librarian Survey data earlier this month.

Library Chiefs Continue to Rule Contract Negotiations

In reviewing the data I continue to be struck by the terrific challenge library chiefs face in the current environment. Law firm profits are reviving, lawyers continue to demand the best and most strategic information resources for their practices and yet library chiefs have succeeded in
containing costs. The survey give clues how they achieve this. Librarians are sharp negotiators who assess not only price but the comparative value and usability of the content. They also employ sophisticated tools for analyzing the ROI for the resources they invest in. These talents are paying off big time for the firms which employ these experts. It would be interesting for ALM to track the comparative outcomes when firms retain consultant-contract negotiators vs. the library chief with or without the assistance of the internal procurement officer.

The Big Movers
 Embedding, Competitive Intelligence, Social Media Monitoring, Centralization, Billable hours, Sole source for online research.
A Sampling of Key Trends From the 2014 Law Library Survey

  • 58% of Library Chiefs are responsible for overseeing Competitive Intelligence

  • 73% report that the volume of Competitive Intelligence research has increased

  • 40 % of Library Chiefs are responsible for Knowledge management

  • More firms were purchasing eBooks. 

  • 86% report that they achieved better deals from online providers

  • 81% of are embedding librarian in practice groups up from 14% in 2012.

  • 49% publish business intelligence newsletters. 

  • Manzama a social media monitoring tool retained the top stop of news aggregation tools and is used in 49% of the responding firms.

  • 72%  report that recovery for online research is declining.

  • Lexis is winning the sole provider, but spending on WL is almost double the spending on Lexis. It is likely that the decline in cost recovery is accelerating the move to sole provider. Firms have to reduce cost in order to offset lost revenue. Spending on BLaw remains flat.

Questions that Disappeared Last year there were several questions on complexity of research and research shifting from lawyers to information professionals. I do not see those questions in the 2014 survey. This is an important issue and should have been retained.
 Outsourcing and Centralization

For several years Library Chiefs has been spearheading initiatives to streamline library operations through centralization and outsourcing administrative operations.  I am uncomfortable with the results reported regarding centralization and outsourcing. For the second year in a row the ALM data actually suggests both centralization and outsourcing are declining. Centralization was down in in all categories except Contract negotiations. This doesn't seem likely.

Low Cost Centers

There have been some high profile big firm relocations of back office staff from NY, DC or LA to Florida, Ohio, Kentucky or West Virginia. Library chiefs should realize that  there is an alternative path to  achieve  similar savings. Some firms already have offices in low cost areas and cost saving benefits can be achieved by simply centralizing administrative processes in those cities.
The Long Slow Death of Cost Recovery

In just 5 years there has been a dramatic decline in the number of firms which recover more than 60% of their online costs. In 2009 51% of firms reported recovering more than 60% of their online costs. In 2014 it is down to 17 % of responding firms. This is no doubt due in part to the growth of AFAs and client demands for cost reduction.

Since this survey covers the Amlaw 200, I recommend that ALM add questions on resource expenditure per attorney and staff to attorney ratios. These would provide valuable metrics for benchmarking. I would like to know the   dollar amount of print  resource spending. Yes it will be a kind of deathwatch. Given the increase in sole online provider contracts, I would like to know if the abandonment of access to Lexis or Westlaw forces firms to rebuild print collections of core treatises which are no longer available online or in eLibraries due to the cancellation of the online contract.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

PLL Summit Keynote: Susan Hackett Delivers A New Vision - Clients Who Want Value Should Demand That Librarians Get "A Seat at the Table"

Susan Hackett, The CEO of Legal Executive Leadership kicked off the  2014 Private Law Libraries Summit with a bang. This year’s theme was  “The Voice of the Client” and  Hackett delivered a powerful message which focused on “Re-engineering the Role and Value of  Private Law Librarian:  Practical Strategies for Leadership in Serving Corporate Clients.”

Susan Hackett Points the Way
Photo (c) Bess Reynolds

We've Come A Long  Way. I couldn't help but contemplate the  trajectory which the Summit has taken since the first Summit in 2010. Although the theme of the  first Summit was "Change as Opportunity,"  it was fear and bewilderment that fueled the discussions. By 2014 the Summit had moved information professionals from survival at the margins to front and center in the delivery of value to clients. Not only did we have Hackett the former Sr. VP and GC  of the Association of Corporate Counsel delivering the keynote, but she was followed by a panel of In House Counsel who reinforced and validated Hackett's insights into the value librarians can bring to multi-disciplinary  client support teams. It is time for information professionals to move from the shadows  of administrative support to center stage  with a seat at the client table and with a voice in the value and process improvement discussions.

Clarifying the Context. Disruption in the legal profession is not solely the result of the recession. Law firms will continue to struggle if they don’t realign their business strategy with delivering value to clients. Law firm’s continue to focus on cost, profit and pricing  which are the symptoms of dysfunction and not the root cause.
The Real Problem Is Client Disconnect: Lawyers still want to sell their expertise by the hour. Clients want to buy business solutions and efficiency.
The Opportunity: Information professionals are uniquely suited to help lawyers leverage the firm's knowledge resources and develop new products, processes and multi-disciplinary strategies which will respond to the client demand for efficient business solutions.
The Innovators Hackett highlighted the innovative initiatives at  two law firms Seyfarth (Lean Six Sigma) and Eversheds (Agile) and two Legal Departments Intel (Dynamic KM) and Cisco (Global Center of Excellence) as examples of workflow reengineering.
Clients Love Data Start demonstrating value by doing time trials. How long does it take for an associate to perform a function that we as information professionals can demonstrably deliver more quickly. Measure the time saved and translate into a value to clients.

Hackett's Examples of Staffing Innovation

      Focus on each person's highest use, not pushing work down

      Demand Management Practices – firms and clients

      “Captive” work centers to drive down project costs

      Design a new kind of “contract lawyer” – you/your team.

      Direct client and firm exposure: training, client deep dives, issue monitoring, etc.

      Assist with feeding or writing blogs, Tweets, Social Media – push knowledge to firms lawyers and clients

      Sourcing increasingly sophisticated work to those who do it faster and cheaper than lawyers

Hackett's Examples of Knowledge Innovation

       Aggressively collect, catalog, and manage data, including big data. Offer it up to clients.
       Create a collaborative knowledge library of firm practices or one that shares clients’ practices.  Offer it up to clients.
      “Proof of Concept” Discussions – questions posted online in firm communities are answered communally and archived.    

      Assign associates to capture partner knowledge experience as part of their training – catalog it for future training.

      Make knowledge capture a legacy project for elder partners

      Create playbooks, process maps, trainings, etc. 

Disruption Equals Opportunity. According to Hackett the primary competition for law firms is not other law firms, it is the legal department itself. As legal departments become more efficient, information innovators can help law firms develop value strategies and services which can help firms compete effectively with their clients.

The Bottom Line: Stop selling ourselves to our law firms, start selling our value to the clients.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Practice Innovations: Law Firm KM, Space Planning, Google Generation Lawyers, Big Data, Risk Management,Crowd Sourcing & Succession Planning

The July Issue of Thomson Reuters Practice Innovations has just been released. Great mix of articles on cutting edge law firm management issues.

Monday, July 7, 2014

White v West Publishing and Reed Elsevier-- Judge Rakoff Fair Use Rationale Explained:Briefs are like Facts, Databases Transform, There is no market for Legal Briefs

It is more than a year  since Judge Rakoff dismissed Edward White's case against Westlaw and Lexis for copyright infringement. A memo explaining the rationale was promised and it has finally been delivered. On July 3, 2014,  Judge Rakoff released a Memorandum and Order which provides a fair use analysis of the decision and reaffirms the 2013 dismissal.

White’s copyright claim can be traced back to his dismissal as class counsel in the case of Beers v XTO Energy, Inc. No. Civ 7-798-L in the Western District of Oklahoma. White was afraid that the "newly proposed class counsel or other lawyers would use his work product” He registered copyrights on the Summary Judgment Motion and the Motion in Limine briefs which had been filed in the Beers case. However prior to registering the copyright he had filed the motions with the court using Pacer’s electronic filing system. Westlaw and Lexis both subsequently  retrieved these documents from the Pacer system and added the documents to their legal research systems. Once a document was filed on Pacer it became available to the public online and in the court clerk’s office.

Rakoff's Memorandum cited the "Fair Use" defense in Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1974 providing the rationale for the dismissal. The memo also stated that under the facts of the White case, 3 of the 4 factors favor “fair use” and one factor was neutral.
The Fair Use Balancing Test Applied

 1. The purpose and character of the use. Citing Campbell v Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. 501 US 569, 578 (1984) the court found the Lexis and Westlaw’s use of White's briefs was transformative. White created the briefs to achieve a specific outcome for a client.  Westlaw and Lexis used the briefs in creating an interactive legal research database. The memorandum states that the editorial processes undertaken by Lexis and Westlaw in “reviewing, selecting, converting, coding, linking and identifying the documents add something new and change the character and purpose of the work.

2. The Nature of the copyrighted work. Fair use is more likely to be found in factual works than fictional works. The memorandum states that "Briefs are functional presentations of fact and law.” Since the briefs were filed with the court it is harder to claim that they are "unpublished."  

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. Lexis and Westlaw copied the entire documents.  There is precedent where courts have concluded that  copying the whole work "does not necessarily weigh against fair use because copying the entirety of a work is sometimes necessary to make a fair use of the image." BillGraham Archives v. Darling Kindersley Ltd., 448 F.3d 605, 613 (2d Cir. 2006). Although defendants here copied the entirety of White's briefs, such copying was necessary to make the briefs full text searchable. The Court found that Lexis and Westlaw only copied what was reasonably necessary for their transformative use, and concluded that that the third factor is therefore neutral. 

4. The effect of the use on the potential market for the work.

Regarding the fourth factor, a finding of fair use is disfavored "only when the market is impaired because the material serves the consumer as a substitute, or . . supersedes the use of the original." Bill Graham Archives, 448 F.3d at 614 (quoting Pierre N. Leval, Toward a Fair Use Standard, 103 HARV. L.REV. 1105, 1125 (1990)). In determining whether such a market exists, the Second Circuit "looks at the impact on potential licensing revenues for 'traditional, reasonable, or likely to be developed markets.'"

In this instance, West's and Lexis's usage of the briefs is in no way economically a substitute for the use of the briefs in their original market: the provision of legal advice for an attorney's clients. White himself admits that he lost no clients as a result of West's and Lexis's usage.

 Isn't It Really Just A Question of Precedent?
I agree with the outcome  of the White case but I find the Court's analysis somewhat strained. I think the more obvious reason to dismiss the copyright claim would be based on a public policy rationale. In the common law system a completely original brief citing no precedent would be pretty useless and unpersuasive. All legal briefs are inherently "derivative" and It serves the " interests of justice" for the briefs and legal arguments which are made to courts to be available for public review.
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