Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 25, Number 5 (May/June 2021), pgs. 22-24.
By Cara Henley Johnson, Library Manager for O’Melveny and Myers
The modern law firm library has a plethora of brief analyzing tools at the fingertips of librarians, attorneys, and staff. While the major vendors have created their own brief analyzers, they are not all the same, and some have qualities that may be better for different users within your firm. A survey of law librarians from the Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals Special Interest Section (PLLIP-SIS) was made available via their listserv for this article. There were 23 responders, about half from large firms and half from medium and smaller firms. Many of the respondents are not the managers of the brief analyzing tools within their law firm. Frequently, a knowledge management or attorney manager professional works with the attorneys to evaluate, implement, and even train on brief analyzer tools. It could be a growth area for law firm libraries to provide more assistance or manage this particular area as it is so tightly integrated into existing research tools.
Following is a short overview of four brief analyzing tools and how to help your firm appropriately learn and use the tools.
Westlaw Quick Check
Revealed at the 2019 American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting, Westlaw Quick Check is only available on Westlaw Edge. Law firms must subscribe to Westlaw Edge in order to get access to this brief analyzer, so the return on investment (ROI) calculation will vary from one firm to another. The majority of PLLIP-SIS responders to the brief analyzing tool survey use Quick Check and felt it was the most accurate.
If Westlaw Edge is a firm’s preferred platform, then adopting this product might be easier than with some of the other tools. Attorneys can drag and drop their briefs into the system after also having conducted research per their normal workflow. This could decrease training time, as they are familiar with the look and feel of Thomson Reuters products, including Westlaw and Practical Law. In this case, in-house training may be easy to implement, whether a firm is working remotely or in person. However, if implementing Edge and Quick Check at the same time with a new upgrade, vendor assistance may be useful. With Westlaw Edge being used in law schools, law students who may have researched within Edge, but not used Quick Check, could be trained just on this part of the platform.
Lexis Brief Analysis
Similar to Westlaw Quick Check, to get Lexis Brief Analysis your firm must subscribe to the new Lexis+ platform, which costs more than the “regular” Lexis. As it is part of their redesigned platform that was only released recently, few firms have implemented Lexis+. The Lexis+ user interface is different from that of Lexis Advance, so even your frequent Lexis users may require additional training to begin using Brief Analysis comfortably. As a newer product, not as many firms had access to Brief Analysis at the time of the PLLIP-SIS survey.
Lexis Brief Analysis builds upon Lexis’s prior product, Brief Check, to provide more analysis of the uploaded document. However, some of the options within Brief Check are not yet integrated within Brief Analysis—for example, limiting citations to those with binding jurisdiction to your case.
The plus side of this product is a lot of firms regularly use and appreciate Shepherd’s Reports, and with this tool you can quickly and easily check all of the cites in an opposing party’s brief—for example, to see if they are citing bad law. The visual presentation of this section’s content is easy to digest. However, there are limitations in the number of legal topics to search by and the number of similar briefs retrieved automatically, which could result in an attorney’s research having not enough samples for the smaller points made within their brief.
Vendor provided demos for evaluation and trainings for implementation may be easiest for your library at first. In the future, as lateral or groups of new associates join the firm, it may be easier to train within the firm, especially as Lexis+ is used in the law school setting. For more on these products in law schools, see “Brief Analysis Tools in the Legal Research Classroom,” from the March/April 2021 issue of AALL Spectrum at bit.ly/MA21analysis.
Bloomberg Law Brief Analyzer
Bloomberg Law created Brief Analyzer to compete with the Lexis and Westlaw products. It has similar strengths and abilities. Anyone who has a Bloomberg Law ID at your firm and prefers the platform will find it easy to incorporate checking briefs for missing points. PLLIP-SIS survey results revealed there was some concern about the accuracy and results of the Brief Analyzer.
For firms, the subscription options and other content on Bloomberg Law may inform the decision to move forward with Brief Analyzer as it is tied to the platform, similar to the Westlaw Edge and Lexis+ analyzing tools.
In implementing training for this product, the Bloomberg Law trainers may be a great option to provide virtual training, especially if your firm continues to work from home.
Last, but certainly not least, is Casetext’s CARA, the first artificial intelligence (AI)-based brief analyzing product on the market. CARA was the 2017 AALL New Product of the Year award winner. It has more customizable search options than its competitors and was implemented by many Big Law firms prior to the subsequent introduction of other brief analyzing tools. In this case, the evaluation question is, do you keep the current product, especially if you had great attorney and staff adoption, or do you move to one of the other vendors as part of a bundle of products you already receive? Depending on the incentives offered, you may need to review attorney product usage and make changes.
If your firm is already paying for both Lexis and Westlaw, CARA may be an unnecessary addition. For small firms, Casetext may be a better all-around solution than the big three vendors discussed above. However, few respondents to the PLLIP-SIS survey subscribed to CARA.
As a relatively simple platform with a clean database look and not too many additional features to muddy the waters, in-house training is often sufficient for teaching CARA. That said, new attorneys are often not exposed to CARA in their law schools and internship experiences and may need more training than with Westlaw or Lexis, where they are up to date from vendor trainings in law school. Additionally, if your attorneys are usually researching within another platform, remembering to access this tool to check their briefs and opposing party briefs may take some time or be a barrier to implementation.
There are many brief analyzing products, and the library team at your firm can play an important role in determining which tool is best for your attorneys and paralegals. Some of the factors to consider in making this decision include:
- User familiarity with the product platform and willingness to learn a new platform.
- Price, ability to bundle with other products, and ROI.
- Accuracy of results, of which user opinions vary, so it would be helpful to reach out to users regarding their experiences.
No matter which product is available at your firm, introductory and continued training are important services law librarians can provide to add additional value to their firms. AI has come a long way in recent years to speed up brief writing. Despite that, our attorneys and paralegals still need to review and analyze all briefs the old-fashioned way to catch mistakes, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon.