of the most challenging aspects of legal research is understanding the
relationship between cases and the ideas represented in those cases as they
develop over time. Lexis and Westlaw have been the go-to tools for citation
reports and a basic analyses of how cases were treated by subsequent courts.
But a new generation of legal information tools are now coming online to make
the process easier. One good example is Ravel, a Silicon
Valley startup with connections to Stanford Law. Ravel gives researchers a visual representation of which cases cite each other, how important
those citing cases have been over time, and—of course—their jurisdiction and
date of publication. This is what it looks like:
Once a researcher finds a case, she can, through Ravel’s premium subscription (available
for free to those with a .edu email address) navigate the case with Ravel’s unique
case annotations. Unlike those written by West or Lexis editors, these annotations
are built on an automated analysis of subsequent court’s citation, quotation,
and rewording of passages from within the case at hand. Of course, this has its
draw backs; Westlaw editors can still likely filter vocabulary changes and
abstract representations of ideas better than Ravel’s algorithm, but Ravel’s approach
perhaps more accurately assesses what subsequent courts, rather than editors,
find most important about a given case.
If you have questions about Ravel or other new legal information tools, feel free to stop by the law library and ask.
Posted by David R. Hansen (Dave) on Tue. June 17, 2014 8:48 AM