Legal (Library) Tech

Legal technology has never been more in the spotlight than it is now. In 2018, investments in legal technology companies reached US $1 billion. Then, just days into the new year, a new $200 million investment was announced in a single legal tech company, signaling yet another record year for legal tech. Once a field associated with just a handful of “pioneering” legal databases, legal tech is now a glamorous, trendy alternative legal path attracting the best and brightest law students.

So What is Legal Tech, and Why is it Relevant to Libraries?

Legal tech has been defined in a number of texts – academic and nonacademic – with no clear consensus to be found. Definitions range from the extremely narrow to the unhelpfully broad, from the practical to the theoretical. The definition that I like best comes from lawyer Christian Lang, who defines legal tech as “(1) the technology that helps facilitate the practice of law for lawyers and (2) the technology that helps consumers access legal expertise or access justice.” While in some cases technologies may benefit both user groups, so far, the vast majority of legal tech targets one or the other group.

Law librarians in academic, government, courthouse and private law libraries should be paying attention to legal technologies because they are changing the practice of law and giving law librarians greater opportunities to implicate ourselves in the delivery of legal services. In particular, legal tech has been changing the nature of the game when it comes to legal research, document drafting, document management (including contract management, IP management, and eDiscovery), and document review. While law librarians have historically only played a role in the first item listed, increasingly, we are being tasked with knowledge management and project management of legal tech initiatives in other areas of legal service.

Librarians who work in public libraries may also want to follow legal tech companies. With the well-documented problems involving access to justice, citizens often turn to public libraries for assistance related to legal matters. Public library librarians should be aware of the different legal technologies that exist and which may help users with legal problems.

Law and Technology and Applied Innovation

In February of this year, I was given the opportunity to develop and teach an intensive legal tech workshop at McGill’s Faculty of Law. The course, entitled “Law and Technology and Applied Innovation,” was one of six optional courses offered during the Faculty’s Winter Focus Week. My instructions were simply to design the course “in a way that offers more than the usual classroom format”. It was suggested that “the focus be more on hands-on student engagement with exercises designed around real-world challenges”.

Leveraging my role as liaison librarian at the Nahum Gelber Law Library, I contacted select legal research technology companies, asking for demos and access to their platforms. Canadian-founded ROSS Intelligence and Blue J Legal, along with American-based Casetext, answered my call. All three leverage the power of artificial intelligence (AI) in different ways, turning the legal research process on its head. Despite their relative unknown status across the majority of Canadian law schools, I knew that they were key players in the market: ROSS Intelligence already counts the largest global law firms among their clients, Blue J Legal counts the largest Canadian law firms and accounting firms as their clients, while Casetext counts over 35 Am Law Firms among their clients.

Students used the tools to attempt to solve legal questions, and were impressed at just how different the research process looked using these tools. Both ROSS Intelligence, which leverages the power of IBM Watson, as well as Casetext allow for natural language searches as alternatives to traditional Boolean searches, allowing users to ask legal research questions in their own words. Both platforms also allow users to narrow their search results by motion or by a particular set of facts. While ROSS Intelligence requires a user to type in this factual context, Casetext allows users to upload a document that gives context to the search; their AI-powered search engine CARA then reads the document to gain an understanding of the factual scenario, and ranks results that share this contextual background higher in the list of search results. As a competing feature, ROSS Intelligence highlights cases with a “deep match” (where the system is fairly confident the answer to your legal question can be found in that decision) or a “fact match” (cases that share a similar set of facts and deal with the same or similar legal issue). ROSS even provides custom, AI-generated answers to your question through the “generate overview” feature, pulling key sentences from the decision and developing a coherent answer to your legal question in a matter of seconds. In addition, both tools also provide a “find similar language” feature across their content, allowing users to easily find additional authorities on a point of law. Last, both offer document analysis, allowing users to import legal briefs, which the AI reads to verify the treatment of cited cases, ensuring that you or opposing counsel are not citing bad law.

Blue J Legal’s research tools, Tax Foresight, Employment Foresight and HR Foresight, by contrast, are not designed with the traditional search engine format. Rather, they are built modularly to answer specific questions, with predictive AI at their core. Users select a specific legal issue, and use one of three tools available to assist with their research: a classifier, which, after a user completes a brief questionnaire, predicts how a court would rule in a particular matter; a case finder, which retrieves cases sharing a similar fact pattern; or a navigator, which is essentially a built-out decision-tree. A machine-learning built memorandum is also produced following the use of the classifier, justifying the prediction based on the facts of the file. Unlike the other two tools, Blue J Legal uses human (lawyer)-powered tagging to avoid errors in the dataset, and will only produce a classifier if it can predict future decisions with at least 90 per cent accuracy.

Access to Justice, Changes in the Legal Profession

Interacting with these and other tools, students were invited to consider how legal tech is changing the way law is being practiced, and how technology might prove to be useful tools in increasing access to justice.

Increased efficiency and decreased research costs were recognized as significant benefits, which could translate into increased access to the legal system. However, concerns were raised about the quality of research results using an AI-search, particularly at this early stage in the development of AI research tools. The risk of a two-tiered legal system, whereby people who could not afford lawyer fees would put all their trust in the research capabilities of – essentially – a robot, potentially putting them at a disadvantage compared to individuals who can afford to pay lawyer fees, was also raised.

While students were excited about just how streamlined the research process could be, they were also concerned about loss of essential research skills among a new generation of lawyers. In particular, these research tools are all geared towards finding “the needle in the haystack,” arguably eliminating the need for lawyers to first gain an understanding about the area of law in which they are working.

Last, privacy concerns were mentioned, particularly with regards to tools like Casetext’s CARA, where documents containing sensitive information. As document analyzers become more common in AI research tools, privacy concerns will necessarily rise.

As legal tech continues to change the way law is practiced, law libraries will necessarily need to adapt. The Nahum Gelber Law Library is continuously on the lookout for new, innovative legal research tools, and is scanning the legal market to see what is being used by practicing lawyers, all to ensure that our students have the right tools to prepare them for life after law school.

Interested in legal tech and its implications? Click here to read some of the blog posts written by McGill Law students for the Law and Technology and Applied Innovation course, which were published by the Blogue du CRL of the Young Bar of Montreal.

 

New Database: Oxford International Organizations

Oxford International Organizations is first database for analyzing and understanding key documents of international organizations. Each document is accompanied by a concise expert commentary. In order to capture the full bearing of international organizations on various substantive areas of international law as well as on the field of international institutional law in particular, the database includes, but is not limited to, resolutions and decisions of organizations, draft normative texts prepared within the framework of organizations, and constituent instruments of organizations. It also contains court decisions relevant for the institutional law of organizations as well as, occasionally, a treaty to which an organization is a party, where this brings light to issues of institutional law. In this resource the term “international organization” is understood as an intergovernmental organization established between states or other international legal actors by a treaty or other instrument possessing at least some permanence of structure, thus excluding NGOs from its scope.

New HeinOnline Collections

As of now, the library offers McGill community the access to five new HeinOnline collections:

  • Immigration Law & Policy in the U.S., a monumental collection, a compilation of the most important historical documents and legislation related to immigration in the United States as well as current hearings, debates and recent developments in immigration law. This first comprehensive database includes BIA Precedent Decisions, legislative histories, law and policy titles, extradition titles, scholarly articles, an extensive bibliography, and other related works.
  • Animal Studies: Law, Welfare and Rights includes titles from the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Animal Welfare Institute and aims to establish the foundational laws pertaining to animals and follow the evolution of these rights throughout the years. It includes philosophical books dating back to the 1800s, videos, periodicals, brochures, and more.
  • Law in Eastern Europe, a collection of books, published by Brill, of more than 60 titles that showcases the development, enactment, and impact of the rule of law in Eastern Europe.
  • Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law Publications: more than 60 publications from this prestigious school, such as the 22-volume set, A Bibliography on Foreign and Comparative Law. Book and Articles in English by Charles Szladits, along with An Introduction to the Legal System of the United States by E. Allan Farnsworth, among various others.
  • Religion and the Law, hundreds of unique titles and nearly one million pages, including books, periodicals, and bibliographies. This collection provides a research platform for the development, history, organization, and fundamental principles of various world religions. The collection also includes the Christian Legal Society publications, an assortment of Canon Law, and rare historical bibles.

We hope you will find them relevant and useful for your teaching, research, and writing.

 

New United Nations iLibrary

United Nations Publications has recently launched the United Nations iLibrary, the first comprehensive global search, discovery, and dissemination platform for digital content created by the United Nations. It includes publications on international peace and security, human rights, economic and social development, climate change, international law, governance, public health, and statistics. In future releases, the platform will also provide access to other resources such as working papers series and statistical databases.

At present, United Nations iLibrary comprises 750 titles in English, and 250 in other official languages of the United Nations: French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Arabic. This initial scope covers most of the content published between 2013 and 2015. Some 3,000 more titles published between 2010 and 2015are expected to be available by the end of 2016. The content of the United Nations iLibrary will be regularly updated with approximately 500 new titles published every year on the key topics reflecting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations.

You can access it via Law subject guide> Foreign and International legislation and cases> Foreign & international

New E-Books Collection: Oxford Scholarly Authorities on International Law

Law Library has just acquired access to the new International Law collection, Oxford Scholarly Authorities on International Law. This collection of ebooks:

  • Provides full text access to leading works such as Oppenheim’s International Law, Simma’s Commentary on the UN Charter, and Crawford’s Creation of States in International Law
  • Includes all titles in the Oxford Commentaries on International Law series, and the  Oxford International Law Library series
  • Content can be browsed by author, title, subject, and by the cases and instruments cited by books included in the site
  • Gives access the  Oxford Law Citator for links to cases, articles, and additional materials related to each article
  • Available on the Oxford Public International Law platform, enabling users to cross-search OSAIL with Oxfords list of public international law resources Oxford Reports on International Law, the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law and Oxford Historical Treaties

New Oxford Collections

As of this term, the Law Library provides the access to two newly purchased Oxford collections:

  • Oxford Handbooks for Law Online brings together the world’s leading scholars to write review essays that evaluate the current thinking on a field or topic, and make an original argument about the future direction of the debate. The Oxford Handbooks are one of the most successful and cited series within scholarly publishing, containing in-depth, high-level articles by scholars at the top of their field.
  •  Oxford Historical Treaties  (OHT) is the premier resource for historical treaty research and home to the full text of The Consolidated Treaty Series, the only comprehensive collection of treaties of all nations concluded from 1648 through 1919. Available via the Oxford Public International Law platform, OHT is cross-searchable with Oxford’s leading public international law resources and benefits from a modern, intuitive interface and sophisticated functionality

New Databases

As of this January, the Law Library provides the access to four newly purchased HeinOnline collections:

Canadian and Australian Acts of the Parliament & Revised Statutes of Canada (PDFs)

With HeinOnline’s Canadian Acts of the Parliament digital collection, you can now access all historical and current Acts of the Parliaments of Canada in online fully-searchable PDF format. The collection includes Acts of the Parliament of Canada (SC) 1792-2012 (annual statutes), as well as all the Revised Statutes of Canada (RSC), from the first revision in 1896 to the last in 1985. Our subscription also includes Acts of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1901-2012. We feel that the law journals’ editors will particularly welcome the acquisition of this collection.

 Israel Law Reports

This collection includes the complete run of the Israel Law Reports which provides access to more than 220 cases. Cumulative tables are provided for reference to other volumes in the collection, as well as to select cases for specified time periods. Also, a “Table of Cases Published in English Translation” lists in alphabetical order all cases that have been translated into English and appear in the Selected Judgments of the Supreme Court of Israel Series and in the present Israel Law Reports Series. The collection also includes access to the Israel Law Review, Volumes 1-42 (1966-2009).

Scottish Legal History: Featuring Publications of the Stair Society

This collection includes the Stair Society Main (Annual) Series consisting of 53 volumes (1936-present), vols. 1-3 of the Stair Society Supplementary Series, as well as books, abridgments and links to scholarly articles from HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library that discuss Scots law. Founded in 1934, the Stair Society serves to encourage the study and advance the knowledge of the history of Scots Law by the publication of original documents and by the reprinting and editing of works of sufficient rarity or importance. It is named after Scotland’s greatest jurist, James Dalrymple, 1st Viscount Stair, whose Institutions of the Law of Scotland, first published in 1681, were the foundation of modern Scots law. As part of its aim to further the study of Scots legal history, the Society produces printed and electronic publications, specifically an annual volume along with occasional other publications, which are now available via HeinOnline to the users of the Gelber Library.

History of International Law

This collections includes more than 1,100 titles and 800,000 pages dating back to 1690 on International Law subjects such as War & Peace, the Nuremberg Trials, Law of the Sea, International Arbitration, Hague Conferences and Conventions and inks to scholarly articles from HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library that discuss International Law.

You can access the new collections via the main HeinOnline page.

New Databases: World Treaties Library & UN Law Collection

Since last Tuesday, the Law Library provides the access to two newly released HeinOnline collections: World Treaties Library and UN Law Collection.

World Treaties Library collection brings together works from Oceana’s Consolidated Treaty Series, U.S. Treaty Index, Rohn’s World Treaty Index, Dumont, Wiktor, Martens, the League of Nations, and the United Nations Treaty Series, creating the richest collection of world treaties ever available, covering the time period from 1648 to the present that includes more than 160,000 treaty records. Also included are hundreds of treaty related publications, a bibliography of select titles of importance to world treaty research, and hundreds of the best, and most-cited law review articles related to treaty research.

UN Law Collection:  vast collection of full text documents that includes United Nations Treaty Series (UNTS), and the League of Nations Treaty Series, publications from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), United Nations Commission of International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), United Nations Yearbooks, United Nations Serials, law review articles that cite a specific UN Treaty, and more.

You can access the new collections via the main HeinOnline page.

Electronic McGill Cite Guide, Westlaw Next, and new La Reference

Since this week, we have access to the new platforms with improved user interfaces for the Westlaw Next Canada and La Reference (former DCL/ REJB).

One of the most important new features of the Westlaw Canada Next is the access to an electronic version of the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation (8th edition).

All the links in the Law Subject guide and on the Law Library branch page have been updated to lead to the new platforms.

Dictionnaires de droit privé en ligne

Depuis les années 1980, le Centre Paul-André Crépeau de droit privé et comparé a publié les dictionnaires de la terminologie du droit privé québécois issues du projet de recherche Dictionnaires de droit privé et lexiques bilingues. A présent, le Centre offre sur le site web trois dictionnaires en accès gratuit : le Dictionnaire de droit privé (2ème éd.), le Dictionnaire de droit privé des obligations ainsi que Le dictionnaire de droit privé de la famille, dans leurs versions française et anglaise. Dans les projets du Centre est de rajouté au site Le Dictionnaire de droit privé – Les Biens quiest paru en format papier en 2012 et la deuxième édition du Dictionnaire de droit privé de la famille qui paraitra bientôt.

Ces dictionnaires sont des outils de référence uniques  et essentiels pour l’ensemble des juristes québécois, pour les traducteurs juridiques, et pour les juristes travaillant en droit comparé. En exprimant le droit privé dans les langues anglaise et française, les Dictionnaires de droit privé / Private Law Dictionaries sont des outils de connaissance originaux qui tiennent compte du fait que le droit privé québécois évolue dans un cadre linguistique et juridique unique au monde. Ils constituent les seuls ouvrages de terminologie juridique pouvant prétendre refléter la spécificité bilingue et bijuridique de la culture juridique québécoise.