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CLIO Webinar Notes – Advanced Legal Research

by merlin on May 28th, 2015
  • Sumo

Joshua Lenon (Clio) & Ed Walters (CEO of FastCase)


Research Plans

  • Taught HOW to research in law school, but lawyers don’t tend to know WHEN to research
  • Clients don’t tend to know CONTEXT for the legal info they get
    • Often, though, clients aren’t willing to PAY for the research needed



  • Look at BOTH academic AND non-academic resources for subject-matter;
  • CONFIRM with formal sources


  1. Alternative Sources for Legal Information
    • Legal journals were followed/cited extensively in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, but not hardly as much in the 2000’s. This is STUPID.
    • Check SSRN eLibrary
      • #1 top download on that database is privacy article with many good references; #3 is on nature of marriage; #4 is 2nd Amendment – This stuff is VERY RELEVANT
    • HEINOnline – 90 years of scholarship from countries around the world (more than ABA Law Library collection, etc.)
    • Methodology is exactly what you should do:
  1. Source Material (Legislation; court opinions – check the black-letter rules and the surface interpretations given)
  2. Local and State resources (ex. libraries, Bar Association resources like FastCase, etc.)
  3. Non-profit Sources (Legal Information Institute [LII] – Cornell Law’s database, etc.)
  4. Non-Academic Writing (ex. lawyer blogs; use!!!!)


  1. Modern Legal Search Engines

Filter + Sort

  • Filter: jurisdiction, date, keyword, etc. (but it really comes down to looking for words that are likely to appear in the opinion or law being searched)
  • Problem: Searches can be OVERinclusive (too many results) and UNDERinclusive (possibly misses the most germane results in the distilled outcome)
  • Google appears to not FILTER results the way that legal research would desire
  • Possible not to get the most relevant result b/c of, i.e., no mobile site (so it wouldn’t rank as high), some folks “gaming the algorithm” for SEO ranking priority, etc.


  1. Integrating Legal Research into your Practice

FastCase “relevance algorithm” – uses numerosity (number of responses), proximity (distance from each use), density (number of uses within the result), and diversity (use in different contexts); they also look to whether other things are citing to it, and look at aggregate history of use of the cite

  • Creative Citation Tool: Actually can see how many times case has been cited (lots of information by relevance)
  • Data visualization – LOOK AT THIS AGAIN (it is a 4-D graph of the results, based on the various filters used, that shows VISUALLY which results are going to be the most important in the search)
  • This involves the “forecite” tool – identifies other cases that don’t include the searched terms but appear relevant to the search topic


Oh – FastCase 7 is going to be released shortly.  Best thing they’ve done.

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