Dispatches from AALL Philadelphia: Legal Innovation

So here’s a good rule of thumb: whenever you get the opportunity to hear Legal Informatics fellows Pablo Arredondo (Casetext) & Daniel Lewis (Ravel Law) speak, you should take it.  Add Cisco security expert Lance Hayden and you’ve got the makings of a really excellent program.  I’m reporting here just a fraction of the program – if you get a chance to listen to it when it comes up on AALLnet, you should.

Daniel talked about processes being data driven – and how law is really becoming one of those processes.  He analogized data analytics in law to Baseball (see Moneyball) & Politics as examples of fields where data analytics gives players clear advantages. All of the information is available in the legal opinions: which judges are more likely to rule for or against you given a set of circumstances – the analytics harnessed by Ravel harvests that information and uses it to help lawyers make better strategic decisions.

Pablo talked about his goals in developing casetext – a resource that harnesses the power of information produced by attorneys: client alert letters, blogs, online briefs and newsletters, and uses that to enhance a legal search engine that includes state and federal cases.  Casetext leverages this great untapped source of information to create a free legal research engine, essentially annotated by these alert letters and blogs.  Members of the legal community are invited to annotate legal opinions, or to upload appellate briefs that they have access to.  This is not crowdsourcing per se, it’s more “communitysourcing,” where your name is attached to any annotations that you add – a sort of quality control by reputation.

Lance talked a lot about security and hacking – and how “hacking” did not always have the negative connotations it does today.  “Hackers” were people – programmers – who could manipulate a system to do something quicker, easier, accurately, and efficiently (think “Life hacks”).   He spoke in metaphor a good deal: he talked about law being the “software we use to run society,” and how good lawyers are essentially hackers of the law.

This was an especially thought provoking program & worth a listen.  Towards the end, Lance articulated something that I think gets to the heart of what is so deeply awesome about librarians: as a group, we are dedicated to doing right by information and by information consumers.

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