Monday, February 1, 2016

Thomson Reuters Rebrands as "The Answer Company," Leveraging Watson, Unveils E-Discovery Point, Practice Point and PermID

Last Wednesday, Thomson Reuters hosted an Innovation Summit in New York City for legal journalists and bloggers in advance of the Legal Tech Conference.
Before the presentation began I noticed  that TR has adopted a new corporate slogan: “Thomson Reuters the answer company.”  A bit of a pivot from their 2013 Innovation Summit where they seemed to be rebranding as a “solutions” company – de-emphasizing their legacy as a content provider and focusing on their development of cloud based practice management products. Perhaps they have found an elegant balance in “the answer company.” I assume this is driven by  emergence of  big data and augmented intelligence as important factors which will impact how lawyers find answers in the future.

Attendees were given an overview of two products, eDiscoveryPoint and Practice Point which will be debuting at Legal Tech in New York this week. They also provided some intriguing insights into the company’s recent alliance with IBM Watson and their PermID project.

Susan Taylor Martin, President, Legal opened the morning by framing TR's technology initiatives in the context of the today’s legal market challenges (the buyers market, maximizing efficiency, the rise of alternative service providers.) Thomson Reuters was positioned as an ally having “the intelligence, the technology and the human expertise that customers need to find trusted answers.”
Drawing a parallel to the challenges facing law firms, Taylor Martin described how TR has shifted to a more client focused development strategy. They continue to drive innovation internally but are also open to collaboration with other external organizations (IBM and Stanford Codex), as well as customers to shape what they will deliver in the future. 

TR Watson Will Debut in Global Financial Regulation
Ever since TR announced their collaboration with IBM Watson last October, the legal community has been impatient to learn how this alliance will manifest in a legal product. We still don’t know but TR did promise that they will be the first company for built a legal product using Watson technology. The alliance will combine IBM’s cognitive computing with TR’s deep domain expertise. A panel of executives from TR and Watson revealed that there will be a beta product available by the end of 2016. Their first collaboration will focus on taming the complexities of global financial regulation.

Practice Point for Transactional Lawyers
Practice Point appears to be a variation on the Practical Law workflow tool. It appears to have much of the same content but it is organized around tasks rather than practice groups. For example an M&A lawyer could browse a list of  M&A activities while moving through various phases of a merger. It includes one on Practical Law’s “wow” features – the creation of “what’s market” tables which can compare deals by a variety of criteria such as company, industry, and deal type.  My jaw dropped when I saw that Practice Point contains a “ rulebook” feature which I have been pleading for TR  to build. Practice Point includes a “bookshelf” of all the key rule compilations needed by a transactional lawyer.  Each book can be read in a browse-able book-like experience. Not clear at all why this would be included in Practice Point but not in Practical Law. Practice Point is also offered in an “in house” version which includes “in house” transactions such as planning a new product.

EDiscovery Point
Eric Laughlin introduced eDiscovery point which will be launched at Legal Tech. Laughlin promoted the product as  offering ease-of-use, increased speed of accuracy and pricing that makes sense. Since TR is a latecomer to the ediscovery market, TR executives knew that the product couldn't simply be different, it had to be better.  Currently most  ediscovery product involve complex  pricing where charges are triggered by a wide variety of factors. TRs new product will offer one price based on a single factor -- the volume of data in review.

Key features which were highlighted include
  • Flat $40 per gigabyte price
  • Eliminate slow loading times
  •  Lawyers can use WestlawNext search syntax  which they learned in law school
  • Eliminates complex training manual to learn search techniques
  •  Eliminate loading bottlenecks by breaking data loads down into smaller files which can be loaded simultaneously.
  • Searches execute 10 times faster than the competition.
  • Browser based searching 
eDiscovery Point

Perm ID is a unique identifier to 3.5 million organization and 240 thousand equity instrument and 1.17 equity quotes from the TR core entity data set. This will eliminate the confusion which arises from name changes, corporate family tree relationships, and different companies with similar names. In the future PermID will be expanded to support people, fixed income instruments and quotes and other business data. A PermID entity search API is available in the Creative Commons.  Companies can use the PermID data to match entities in unstructured data sets. I immediately think of the challenges law firms face in conflicts checking. Perhaps the permID can be used to clean up  conflicts data. But I can’t help but wonder why TR isn’t taking this data to build a commercial "conflicts checking" product for law firms. Try a company search here.

 “The Difficulty lays not so much in developing new ideas as escaping old ideas.”- JM Keynes

TR Legal President Taylor Martin opened the meeting with this quote from economist John Maynard Keynes. The fact that  Taylor Martin and Charlotte Rushton, SVP, Global Legal Markets  were presiding  over the meeting was itself a testament to how far Thomson Reuters had come in escaping some old ideas. This meeting stood in the stark contrast to my first meeting with West Publishing Company executives circa 1983 in St. Paul Minnesota. The leadership of West Publishing Company was a middle-aged gaggle of men who enjoyed recreational hunting and ice fishing. By the mid 1990's West's President, Dwight Opperman knew that the company could not evolve and compete in the 21st century without a dramatic overhaul and infusion of new blood and new investments. 

This year will mark the 20th Anniversary of  Thomson Reuters  acquisition of West Publishing Company.  During the Summit TR executives laid out a vision of change through collaboration and innovation. It is hard to imagine what law firms will look like in 20 years but I assume that those which survive will have mastered the escape from old ideas. Will Thomson Reuters actually evolve into a full fledged legal service provider in the future? After all they are "the answer company" and what lawyers (and librarians do) if not provide answers?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Free Legal Information is Not "Risk Free" for Attorneys or the Public : The Glassmeyer "State Legal Information Census" Examined

Earlier this month Sara Glassmeyer, Librarian, Lawyer and Information Provocateur published an important new study outlining the substantial shortcomings of “free” digital,  legal information in the United States. Glassmeyer has spent the past year as a Fellow at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab and has produced what I believe is the first comprehensive census on the quality of primary legal resources published by states on the web.  “The State Legal Information Census: an analysis of primary state legal information” is a “must read” for every information professional,whether they are engaged in research, training, curation, cataloging, procurement or knowledge strategy.

The next time you are asked why you are paying for commercial research products “since everything a lawyer needs is on the web” -- just whip out the Glassmeyer report.  I have long suspected the difficulties and unevenness of free digital resources on the web but I had never seen a systematic analysis of the problem.  Glassmeyer’s report fills the gap and moves the ball from impression to proof.  State legal publishing is a vast and uneven landscape offering the public content which is impaired by yawning gaps in reliability, currency and completeness. Glassmeyer scored each state based on 14 access criteria. No state got a perfect score. Most states have serious deficiencies.
S. Glassmeyer State Census Ratings

Glassmeyer describes an ” information desert” which exacerbates the access to justice crisis in the United States. More and more people are seeking to address their legal issues without the assistance of a  lawyer and relying on these public resources.  While the goal of the report may have been to highlight the variety of obstacles  which the general public faces in accessing the materials promulgated by their governments ---it also  underscores the significant risks which lawyers  assume when they rely on free government websites for primary source materials.
The report focuses on state primary legal resources including codified statutes, administrative, regulations and case law which are made available by each state. Glassmeyer has outlined a chilling litany of obstacles, irregularities, oversights and shortcomings which hamper the usability of state legal information.
The Report’s Recommendations Include:

  •  States should create law portals to provide one-stop access to all state legal information.
  •   States should publish information openly and reduce barriers to reuse such as copyright claims in state created content.
  •  Official publications should move from print to digital to promote greater access.
  • All copyright claims as well as restrictive use terms should be removed from webpages containing state primary source material. Disclaimers should warn about the limitations and usefulness of legal information provided.
  • States should consider outsourcing web-based content to commercial publishers in order to improve comprehensiveness and usability.
  • States should provide basic disclaimers about the use and usefulness of all legal information collections advising of the need to validate that the material is current (i.e. hasn’t been repealed superseded overruled or withdrawn etc.)

What Does “Access” Mean?  Glassmeyer’s report deconstructs the notion of “access” and investigates the variety of issues which create impediments to quote “meaningful access.”  All of these concepts described are familiar to information professionals --these are the warp and woof of collection analysis.
Barriers to access include:

·         Cataloging since the law is full of  "terms of art," full text searching of a free database does not necessarily create access for a nonprofessional. No state provides an index to its case law.

·         Citation citation systems help practitioner determine the validity of case law and courts require that pleadings and filings include official citations. There are no free public citators and the public is required to purchase official versions of cases in order to comply with court filing rules.·         Ironically most online versions of cases statutes and regulations are not considered official for purposes of citation. In some states it is not even possible to determine what is the official version.

·         Citators No state provides a citator for validating its law.

·         Container The format in which the digital content is published has an impact on its usability. States publish materials in PDF, HTML as well as mixed formats. The entire repository of caselaw, statutes or regulations may not be in the same format.

·         Content archives. The majority of states post incomplete collections of codes, regulations and case law. Most collections start in the mid-1990s. The validity of these codes and regulations cannot be determined without the assistance of a professional librarian.

·         Control. States attempt to control the use of law by posting copyright claims and usage restrictions. Eight states actually post restrictions on the use of case law – – indefensible in a common law system where precedents matter.
·         Conveyance-- how the state makes the information available. In most states, the print version of a case, statute or regulation remains the “official “version.  Most states do not allow bulk access to their legal information and most prohibit web scraping.

·         Copyright although it is a general rule that states cannot copyright their official publications, several states do post copyright notices claiming copyright in their cases, statutes and regulations. 

·         Corporate control since many states rely on commercial publishers to publish their state law, this increases the cost of access to state materials. In addition, commercial publishers wrap the public domain law with editorial enhancements making it difficult for the public to understand what they can use and what is restricted.

·         Correctness. For a resource to have value it must be trustworthy and yet some states place disclaimers on their websites suggesting that the information cannot be trusted. The problem of revised court opinions is particularly troublesome. Courts post slip opinions which they don't remove or flag when there is a subsequent change.

·         Cost. Most state law is free on the Internet but there are some significant exceptions where states charge for access.

·         Currency. The law changes constantly but some states fail to update their materials quickly and fail to post a clear indication of  when the material was last updated.

·         Search. Legal materials are not searchable on some state websites. Most states only provide a basic search function. Advanced search features would enhance both precision and retrieval.

A Public-Private  Solution? Although many states have adopted the Uniform Electronic Legal Information Act (UEELMA) this did not result in “barrier free” access to information. The report suggests that  commercial publishers are simultaneously  part of the problem and part of the solution. At this point in the 21st Century the major commercial publishers with editorial teams (Lexis, Westlaw, BloombergBNA and WoltersKluwer) offer the best hope for producing legal resources with editorial quality, cite checking  tools, complete  archives and  current content. This may change as new technologies and legal startups evolve. Ravel and Fastcase are creating lower cost alternative approaches to legal research but neither is in a position to "clean up" the wide variety of state statutes, regulations and caselaw issues outlined in the Glassmeyer report.

 It seems unlikely that states have the will and the wherewithal to fix the problems outlined in the Glassmayer report any time soon. Commercial publishers have the technology and expertise but not the incentive to make all of the primary content  (which they acquire from the states)  available to the public in a user friendly platform. As primary law gets commoditized and legal publishers shift their focus from content to process,  will they consider  public-private partnerships designed to create reliable open access to primary law across the United States?

In the meantime – let the lawyers and public beware: Free legal content is not risk free.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ravel is on a roll! Handshake Alliance, Free California Caselaw and Forbes Profile

Last week Ravel and Handshake Software announced a partnership. Law firms with Handshake software will be able to integrate Ravel caselaw and analytics into desktop applications and create personal homepages. On Monday Ravel co-founders Daniel Lewis and Nik Reed were featured in a Forbes article about the emergence of Big Data in the practice of law. Yesterday they announced that as the result of their Harvard Law School alliance they had loaded the complete California case law archive.

The Ravel/Handshake Alliance

The alliance with Handshake which was announced last week enables firms to integrate ravel search and analytics into their interwoven platform. 


The Ravel/ Handshake alliance allows law firms to create a platform in which Ravel’s legal materials and  a firm’s internal expertise and data can be integrated and accessed using enterprise search or on personalized pages. According to the press release” This not only alleviates the need to conduct legal research as part of a siloed search but brings together all other critical aspects of the modern practitioner’s hub including relevant information from the firm’s financials, document management, customer relationship and practice management systems.”

 Nik Reed, co-founder and chief operating officer at Ravel Law explains the benefits to law firms. “Legal research is an essential part of business intelligence in developing legal strategy, and our integration with Handshake makes data-driven insights available with just a few clicks.”

Free California Caselaw

In October 2015, Ravel Law  and Harvard Law School announced an ambitious Big Data  project. Ravel and Harvard are collaborating on scanning the complete archive of all US cases in the Harvard Law Library and make that archive available to the public for free on the Ravel platform.

Yesterday, Daniel Lewis co-founder of Ravel announced the release of California caselaw, which was loaded into Ravel as part of the Harvard-Ravel digitization project, This is exciting news for the public because for the first time the entire archive of California state caselaw is freely accessible to anyone with access to the web. Each case is accompanied by an authoritative scan of case from  the original book from the Harvard library.(GoogleScholar provides free case law searching but it has a limited archive  of state appellate cases dating back to 1950 and Ravel’s archive is a complete archive including cases back to the 19th century. The Ravel/Harvard archive  includes both trial and appellate opinions.)

Subscribers to Ravel law’s Judge’s Analytics will soon be able to analyze the opinions of California state judge. Judge’s Analytics provides insights into how judges make decisions by analyzing their cited precedents.

Forbes: How Big Data is Disrupting Law Firms and the Legal Profession.

This week Forbes posted and article which examines the emergence of big data in legal practice.  I profiled Ravel in an earlier post. Since the entire legal profession is rooted in precedent it should not be surprising that change comes slowly. Anyone who looks at the results of a Ravel search can see immediately that Ravel is a radical re-imagining of the legal research process.

Ravel's Research Results

The article includes a particularly interesting insight from  from Ravel co-founder Nik Reed  on the changing profile of young lawyers. “One of the most exciting moments for me starting at law school and having come from working on Wall Street was realizing I wasn’t alone – the days when lawyers were all English Literature or philosophy majors are behind us now, my classmates included a lot of people from finance and one who had a PhD in bio chemistry from MIT. These are people who are familiar with quantitative analysis and datasets, and they are yearning for richer information sources and better analytics technologies. It probably wouldn’t have gone down very well 30 years ago with the kind of people who were lawyers back then.”

It will be interesting to see what happens when the first generation of "quant" lawyers "make partner" and  start migrating into leadership roles in law firms.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Last Call: The Annual Start Stop Poll Closes on Monday January 18th: Share Your Wisdom With Your Colleagues

The Poll: Please take the brief (11 question)  2015-2016 Start Stop Poll here.
For the last two years  one  of the most popular Dewey B Strategic blogposts has been the summary of results contributed by you, the readers of this blog.

Here are links to the  2013 and 2014 results.
We are living in a whirlwind of change. We routinely assess new products, new processes, new roles,  new organizational options, new expectations.  Let's help each other decide what's worth doing. Let's leap boldly into the future together. Share your insights. What were your victories, false starts or  plain old bad choices. Share your hot tips,  short cuts,  projects and best practices.

Are you launching an AI project? Did you outsource? Centralize? Switch to a single online provider? Stop distributing deskbooks? Start offering eBooks? Participate in a Lean Six Sigma team? Launch a content curation project? Develop an app?

Make Room For Value. The speed with which old processes and assumptions become obsolete is accelerating. We can only deliver more value by eliminating or streamlining the routine, the redundant and the unexamined. 

Invest in the Future. Since law firm budgets remain flat, the best  way find the budget for innovative new products, is to reduce or eliminate redundant  products  and products which offer a low ROI.
The Wisdom of Colleagues. In the spirit of collecting the wisdom of colleagues I am once again asking readers to share  insights on the processes and products they  started or stopped in 2015 and  what they plan to start or stop in 2016. What products did you  stop using? What new ones will you adopt in 2016?

Anonymity Results will be aggregated and there will be no attribution to any individual person or organization without the written consent of the respondent.
The Poll: Please take the brief (11 question) survey here.
The Survey will remain open until January 18th and I will report on the results. 

Thanks in advance to all participants.