Emerging Technology Planning – Ravel Law

Objectives

  • To encourage direct and more meaningful interaction between private (corporate) law library patrons and case law. As it stands, many law libraries operate on a closed model in which a librarian facilitates access to materials and conducts most reference research, in particular, case law.
  • By utilizing an open participatory model, corporate law libraries may reduce expenditures on subscription services that currently have a monopoly on access to published case law as well as the time of thinly stretched law library staff. Further, this approach empowers in-house counsel to conduct their own legal research with the aid of a legal bibliometics tool powered by Ravel Law and Harvard Law School’s Case Law Access Project.
  • While many law firms already use the PACER system to access digital case outcomes and trial proceedings, many, including information professionals, find this system to be glitch prone, limited in scope, and difficult to search. Use of open access case law API will enable users (both attorneys and library staff) to easily search a broader trove of case law while bibliometrics tools such as Ravel Law will improve insights and outcomes by providing customizable filtering tools and data visualization to easily search and link cases.
  • To reduce or eliminate subscriptions to costly case law aggregation services. According to a 2016 Forbes article, Westlaw and Lexis Nexis dominate this market and offer access to case law with limited or no analytical tools (Marr, 2016).
  • Implementation of such open access research tools may reduce reliance on outside counsel and free up space currently occupied by physical case law materials as well as funds dedicated to maintaining those collections and access to digital subscription services.

Community Analysis

Law libraries, corporate law libraries in particular, tend to be utilitarian in nature and operate very differently than public and academic libraries.  Change comes about slowly and is often more closely tied to budgetary and technological considerations than in other information settings.  Corporate law libraries tend to be small with minimal staffing, serving potentially large employee populations comprised of attorneys and legal support staff.  In addition to typical librarian responsibilities, law librarians often assume roles that require specialized legal training including legal research and analysis.  While some law librarians do hold law degrees or related training, many do not.  Conversely, while in-house attorneys hold law degrees and state bar membership, they do not necessarily possess the information seeking skills of a librarian.

In private law firms, the financial model is based on billable hours, in which attorneys are incentivized to maximize the amount of time spent working on a case.  This is not an environment typically associated with disruptive innovation, though it is beginning to occur.  In-house counsel works on a different basis in which an in-house (dedicated) law firm solely represents the business or business unit and is built into the budget as a standard expense.  There is a little bit more room for technological experimentation and expenditure given the flat fee model.  Further, the legal department is one of many departments that comprise an organization and so there is some expectation that the legal department will have the full range of enterprise-wide technology available to it.  Smaller or independent firms may not have the budget for technological experimentation and software licensing can be quite cost prohibitive without bulk license pricing.  The corporate law environment is ripe for disruptive innovation due to a rapidly expanding pool of young attorneys and the growing intersection between law and technology.

The corporate law library presents an interesting and challenging environment in which to incorporate emerging technologies.  It is a special library dedicated to the unique needs of in-house legal departments and much of the work conducted therein revolves around legal research.  In an interview with the lone law librarian of a major corporation, she described her position as one in which she wears many, and sometimes all the hats.  She facilitates access to the collection and maintains it, conducts reference interviews, catalogs, researches new technology, and conducts UX surveys and implements improvements.  Open access case law tools such as Ravel Law may foster a closer working relationship between in-house law librarians and legal staff while improving efficiency throughout the legal department, reducing the strain on understaffed law libraries and providing flexible adaptation to changes in the law and best legal practices that are not well served by continued heavy reliance on physical materials.

Action Brief

Convince corporate law firms that by employing open access case law tools such as Ravel Law they will enhance accessibility to case law, which will promote flexible research methods and produce greater results because it allows legal professionals to conduct research independent of a law librarian, thereby reducing costs and the burden on the librarian while simultaneously expanding research results and insights.

Evidence and Resources in Support of Ravel Law

  • In a recent article published in American Association of Law Libraries’ (AALL) Spectrum, Mark Gediman explores the practical application of artificial intelligence in law firm and libraries. He specifically references Ravel Law as a technological service with the potential to reduce time spent on legal research.  “Ravel takes case data and creates visual tools that show relationships and provides context to the analytics (2016, p. 36).” Gediman further asserts that “finding information in these systems can often be a difficult, time-consuming process.  AI can simplify this process considerably (2016, p. 37).”
  • A 2015 New York Times profile of Ravel Law highlights the transparency aspects of the Harvard Case Law Access Project and Ravel Law. Here, Erik Eckholm, highlights the monumental scope of the Harvard case law collection and what it means to provide their case law archives free of charge to software developers such as Ravel Law.  “Shelves of law books are an august symbol of legal practice, and no place, save the Library of Congress, can match the collection at Harvard’s Law School Library.”  Eckholm also notes the significance of the availability of state case law through Harvard’s project, materials typically only accessible through cost prohibitive commercial services such as Lexis Nexis and Westlaw.
  • In a 2016 interview conducted by AALL, the developers of Ravel Law highlighted the following applications and features of the software for large law firms:
    • “We’re building something highly intuitive that doesn’t take a lot of training.” See staffing considerations.
    • “It helps librarians and information scientists position themselves as thought leaders within their firms, having identified technology that can help attorneys be more strategic.”
    • “We also see Ravel fitting into the entire workflow—from research to writing memos or sharing information within the law firm. We call it a research center, but it’s basically an area where actions are recorded and are easily drag-and-dropped into Microsoft Word or email.”
  • A 2014 profile of Ravel Law in Venture Beat notes that “…young lawyers grew up with Facebook and are glued to a smartphone, so to force them to use antiquated products at work is unnatural.”
  • The same Venture Beat article calls to light the huge amount of time that lawyers and legal professionals spend conducting research – a task that consumes up to 30% of their time. Ravel Law provides search and data visualization that substantially reduces the amount of time spent conducting legal research.
  • Forbes offers the following review of Ravel’s judge analytics tool:

One of their services– Judges Analytics – lets lawyers search through every decision made by particular judges to find those most likely to be sympathetic to their arguments. The data is visualized through Ravel’s dashboard in a way that makes it easier to spot connections and opportunities that otherwise would have been missed.

Policy Guidelines

Given that Ravel Law provides customizable search tools, data collection is a consideration that may affect implementation and policy guidelines.   Ravel states that it provides “…caselaw data and expert-trained algorithms to answer your specific knowledge management and research needs.”  If data collection occurs automatically to inform the search algorithm, the organization may wish to involve its information security, compliance, and legal teams (particularly technology and privacy groups) to clarify what information is collected from the organization and how it is used and stored.

Further, the organization needs to consider Ravel’s policy toward user-generated content.  Ravel’s Terms of Service include the following:

Subject to the foregoing, you hereby grant to Ravel a non-exclusive, irrevocable, perpetual, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to store, reproduce, adapt, modify, create derivative works of, publish, transmit, display and distribute your User Content, and to otherwise use any of your User Content as Ravel may deem necessary or desirable for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Services and future improvements. You agree that this license includes the right for Ravel to make your User Content available to others for the publication, distribution, syndication, or broadcast of such User Content on other media and services. Such additional uses by Ravel or others may be made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the User Content that you post or otherwise make available through Services.

Depending on the organization’s position on release of proprietary information or any content developed by the organization while using the tool, the organization may wish to negotiate Ravel’s Terms of Service in a separate contract.

Funding Considerations

Ravel offers a seven-day free trial, during which time, the organization’s legal department can invite a cross section of employees to sample the product.  The organization should also involve its IT and law library staff during the trial period to develop an implementation strategy and discuss organization-specific concerns such as compatibility with existing technologies (Ravel offers plugins and software integration).  Ravel does not offer standard pricing but rather tailors its price plans to each individual organization.  However, according to an Indiana University Jerome Law Library LibGuide, 2012 pricing for Ravel Law ranged from $1,100 to $1,700 a year depending on account features.  Some of this funding can be reallocated from funding from the aforementioned case law subscription services provided by Westlaw, Lexis Nexis, and similar services.  In addition, the PACER system charges $0.10 per page, which adds up given the lengthy nature of court proceedings.  Use of Ravel Law is intended to supplement or possibly supplant use of the clunky PACER system with the added benefit of analytical tools.

Action Steps & Timeline

  • Participate in a seven day free trial of Ravel Law. Legal, IT, law library, compliance, and information security teams should be involved in this initial free trial and any subsequent trials.
  • Solicit feedback from the above-mentioned teams. If consensus is reached and representatives from each team approve adoption of Ravel, the legal and finance teams will contact Ravel for additional pricing and contract information.
  • Once contracted, purchased, and installed, the IT team and law librarian will work in concert to install Ravel and work out integration with existing enterprise software.
  • Meanwhile, the law library and technology teams will create internal publicity materials advertising Ravel’s benefits. These materials may be uploaded to the company’s intranet, disseminated by email, or advertised during all hands or training meetings.
  • Use and implementation of Ravel will be assessed quarterly during the first year after companywide rollout and yearly thereafter prior to annual renewal. A random sampling of users and law library administrators will be involved in the annual renewal process with input from IT to scale licensing and service plan to account for changes in departmental needs.
  • IT will work continuously with Ravel to implement updates as needed.

Staffing and Training Considerations

As cited earlier, Ravel prides itself on providing an intuitive service that requires minimal training (May/June 2016 issue of AALL Spectrum).  As this is a service that can be used by anyone across the legal department of an organization, the primary concern is making potential users aware of the service through internal promotion (see Promotion & Marketing).  The law librarian should serve as the primary point of contact or knowledge center for training questions, however simple documentation such as FAQs or “how tos” may be sufficient to address training and ongoing use questions.  Ravel provides training content including a “quick start” guide and FAQs and so little in the way of original training content or activities need to be developed by the adopting organization.

Promotion & Marketing

  • A small group of beta testers should be organized, including representatives from the law library, legal staff, and IT. Upon completion of beta tests, this group will report their findings to be relayed at a staff all hands or technology summit.
  • An email campaign should be organized to disseminate basic information regarding implementation of Ravel with a more targeted campaign posted to the legal department’s intranet and blogs.
  • During the initial months of rollout, the law librarian will liaise with individual legal teams to promote Ravel and host Q & A sessions
  • As Ravel can only be used internally, the organization must consider how and whether it will disclose the use of Ravel and clearly specify whether Ravel can in turn use the company’s name to promote the product.

Evaluation

Ravel touts itself as a tool that “…helps librarians and information scientists position themselves as thought leaders within their firms, having identified technology that can help attorneys be more strategic.”  These claims should serve as the partial basis for evaluation and can be simplified into the following evaluation criteria:

  • Cost-benefit (over similar products used by the firm/library such as WestLaw and Lexis Nexis, PACER);
  • Time benefit to law library staff – How much time is saved by library staff by involving legal staff in case law and other legal research?
  • Time benefit to legal staff – How much time is saved by conducting research on their own rather than waiting on potentially understaffed library staff to conduct legal research for the entire organization?
  • Quality of research and insights yielded by Ravel’s analytical tools — Did the analytics tools provide benefit over the simple case law results provided by existing subscription services?
  • On a departmental scale, do performance reviews reflect increased efficiency and insights?  Does use of the tool reduce time spent on projects overall?
  • Annual renewal – As discussed above, does the service warrant annual renewal?
  • Does the service provide benefit to the business unit? The law library and legal department work in service of a specific business unit.  Is Ravel sufficiently customizable to yield targeted benefit to the business unit?  Is the case law and insight provided by Ravel current enough to inform product and service development across the organization?

References

Eckholm, E. (2015). Harvard law library readies trove of decisions for digital age. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/29/us/harvard-law-library-sacrifices-a-trove-for-the-sake-of-a-free-database.html?_r=0

Farr, C. (2014). Ravel law raises $8M to help lawyers gather data — and cut costs — in a new way. Retrieved from http://venturebeat.com/2014/02/03/ravel-law-raises-8m-to-help-lawyers-gather-data-and-cut-costs-in-a-new-way-exclusive/

Gediman, M. (2016). Artificial intelligence Retrieved from http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lls&AN=117889593&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Greenberg, J. (2016). Tech will force lawyers to do more for those billable hours. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2016/02/lawyers-fear-that-tech-will-make-their-jobs-too-easy/?mbid=social_twitter

Harvard Library Innovation Lab. (2016). Project: Caselaw access project. Retrieved from http://lil.law.harvard.edu.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/projects/caselaw-access-project/

Marr, B. (2016). How big data is disrupting law firms and the legal profession. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2016/01/20/how-big-data-is-disrupting-law-firms-and-the-legal-profession/#3d31b5767c23

Ravel Law. (2017). Who we are. Retrieved from http://ravellaw.com/who-we-are/

Ravel Law. (2017). Tutorials. Retrieved from http://ravellaw.com/tutorials/

Ravel Law. (2017). Terms of service. Retrieved from http://ravellaw.com/terms-of-service/

Ravel law’s approach to data-driven research (2016). Retrieved from http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lls&AN=116075601&site=ehost-live&scope=site

United States Courts. (2017). Public access to court electronic records. Retrieved from https://www.pacer.gov/

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