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.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

ABA LPM Knowledge Strategy Subgroup Offers Free Webinar "How to Compete with WatsonJD " Future Proof Your Practice

Knowledge strategy is not about technology; it’s about efficiency. In the current  buyers market, value conscious clients shop around for law firms that can demonstrate that they have a knowledge strategy. For law firms, alternative fee arrangements can not be profitable unless they have optimized efficiency by leveraging internal knowledge and time saving tools and resources.. Savvy clients  will go elsewhere rather than pay for inefficiencies. 

On January 28, 2016 the ABA Section of Law Practice Management, Knowledge Strategy subgroup will be offering a free webinar to assist lawyers in developing  or improving their firms knowledge strategy to improve client satisfaction and retention. 

The  “How to Compete with IBM Watson JD: Future-proof your practice by improving efficiency now " webinar  will outline  the business case for knowledge strategy. Topics include:
  • Why clients won’t ask for efficiency, but will instead move to other lawyers who do provide the desired value
  • Why efficiency is about people and process, not technology
  • What we mean by efficiency
  • How efficiency can improve not only the value you deliver to clients but also your financial results
  • How you as an individual lawyer can respond now, whether you practice in a large firm or solo/small firm setting
  • Why knowledge strategy is more powerful than knowledge management

Register here!

Information on upcoming webinars is available at this link.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

American Lawyer Media Acquires Legal Week: What Are the Ramifications of the ALM/ LexisNexis Alliance? LexisNexis Dominance of Legal News Market Globailizes?

London based Incisive Media  announced in a press release this morning that they had sold their  legal market news publication Legal Week to  American legal news pioneer American Lawyer Media. Ironically ALM was briefly owned by Incisive Media from 2007 to 2009.

As the legal market globalizes it makes complete sense for law firm leaders to understand the international market.

Bigger Data?

ALM CEO Bill Carter is quoted in the press release:  "This acquisition is an important next step as we expand our offerings into key international markets," Since ALM has been expanding it's analytics offerings on the ALM Legal Intelligence Platform I assume this acquisition will provide not only an opportunity for ALM to expand the international news purveyed through and their many regionally branded news products ( New York Law Journal, Texas Lawyer etc.) but it will enable ALM to expand their analytics to include "big data" insights into the international market. Legal Week also publishes periodic reports on the state of the legal market. The press release focuses on the synergies between both companies conference and events businesses. ALM's events include Legal Tech which will be held in New York February 2nd  through 4th. The press release was silent on what I would call "the elephant in the room."

What is the LexisNexis Angle?

What is intriguing to me is how this will fit into LexisNexis recent alliance with ALM. Last November  LexisNexis announced that it  had become the exclusive provider of ALM. ALM bills will appear on Lexis invoices. ALM accounts will be serviced by LexisNexis account executives... Will this support model apply to Legal Week as well - I think we need to assume yes. Although this may be a bit dicier outside the US where large segments of the LexisNexis customer base are supported by third party vendors.

I asked ALM to provide clarification on the Legal Week/ALM/LexisNexis trifecta. According to Lenny Izzo, President of ALM's  Legal Media division:  Legal Legal Week content is available today on LexisNexis via a pre-existing licensing agreement. It will not be immediately included in the recent ALM/LexisNexis AmLaw 200 exclusive distribution arrangement, but can be subscribed to through direct channels by contacting Legal Week directly  at +44 (0)207 316 9404.  Nothing was said suggesting or precluding future changes.

Dominance of the Legal News Market

LexisNexis has been so persistent in routinely acquiring legal news assets that it is getting a bit tiresome to repeat the litany once again - but it is impossible to understand the market impact without repeating the list. Lexis will now own or control the following legal news assets:

  • Legal Week
  • MLex
  • American Lawyer Media
  • Law 360
  • Wall Street Journal Online - distribution to legal market
  • New York Times online exclusive
  • Newedge news platform
It's only mid January. It will be interesting to see how LexisNexis plays the ALM/Legal Week alliance  and what other news gems they may add to their crown in 2016.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Lex Machina Releasing 2015 Year End IP Trends: Patent Litigation Still on the Rise

Lex Machina will be releasing it's 2015 Year End IP Trends Report tomorrow and it will be posted on their website  on January 7th. Lex Machina is one of the pioneers,  if not "the pioneer" in bringing
custom intellectual property litigation analytics into legal practice workflow.  Periodically Lex Machina does all the heavy lifting and generates special reports examining intellectual property litigation trends. Their most recent report summarizes patent copyright and trademark litigation in 2015.

I received a preview of the year end report from Brian Howard, Lex Machina's Legal Data Scientist and Director of Analytics.

Here are some key trends:

  • Patent litigation in US District Courts rose 15% in 2015.
  • Filings rose 43% from the 3rd to 4th quarter of 2015.
  • 43% of all patent cases are filed in Eastern District of Texas

  • In the copyright area file sharing cases declined and more traditional copying cases were relatively flat and within a recent trend of 500-600 cases per quarter.

  •  2015 saw the lowest rate of trademark litigation cases filed in 10 years.( Which I find surprising --- Mark Zuckerberg wants to own "face"  and Taylor Swift just tried to trademark "1989"  -- and trademark litigation is slowing?)