You are not just using a new product, you are entering the “world of Ravel”… and you need to check all your preconceptions about legal research at the door.
Ravel Law makes me feel old. It has some similarities to Fastcase but also some major differences. Both products are the brainchild of young lawyers hellbent on reinventing legal research. Both developed their own innovative search engines and visual approaches to displaying search results.
I have often wondered how young lawyers will understand legal research without benefit of taxonomical hierarchies, digests and headnotes. Only time with tell, but I have to give the Ravel innovators the benefit of the doubt and celebrate something that may “speak the language” of “born digital” generation of lawyers.
|The Ravel Research Universe
Daniel Lewis co-founder of Ravel Law grew up in a family of
lawyers. When he attended Stanford Law School he became convinced that the
legal profession needed a new approach to legal research. He and co-founder Nik Reed, a fellow Stanford law school alum
developed Ravel in collaboration with students from the Design School at Stanford.
Lewis describes the Ravel Law platform as offering a new kind of
analysis by using machine computing and data visualization. Ravel built a platform to appeal to younger
hierarchies, viewing research results on Ravel is like landing in an alternate
universe. Interpreting Ravel search results requires the learning a
“visual language.” Lewis believes that Ravel’s landscape — the
visual display of search results –conveys more information than can be displayed by the traditional “results list of cases.” This may be true but first you have to learn their “display language.”
Key to the Ravel Universe:
Each circle represents a case
The size of the circle represents its importance
The Line is the citation
The thickness of the line represents the depth of treatment.
which shows the evolution of the law. The timeline shows the whole universe of
cases related to a search. Filters allow you to limit results by court level.
assumption is that the algorithm has gotten you the best cases in the top
75. This breakpoint forces the researcher to focus on the most highly
relevant cases. It also requires complete trust in the search algorithm.The researcher can continually expand and refocus the search to include more cases.
|Case with citation history display
ranking jump cites.
text in the jump cite in order to show the
relevance of a particular page in a particular case. Lewis describes this as “building out good and bad law on a
page by page basis.” The star reading system assigns stars to each page of a case using a 1 to 5 star scale, depending on how many times that page has been cited to by other cases. A one-star page has been cited to at least 5 times, and a 5 star page has been cited to at least 2,000 times. The cases that get listed as citing to a particular page can then be ranked in two ways: 1) by date, 2) by rank (which means how many times that case has itself been cited).
new feature which is not currently offered by any competitor. It
is the kind of feature that law firm partners are likely to want on their desktops. This new feature will use a “big data” analysis to fill one of the voids where lawyers rely on intuition and anecdote because they are lacking objective data.
Interaction vs Reading. Ravel unravels every preconception you have about legal research. The thing that will most likely appeal to young lawyers is that Ravel begs you to interact with with it rather than read. The law still requires deep reading, analysing, distinguishing finer points of arguments. Will it seduce lawyers away from reading into focusing on narrower and narrower slices of text? The optimal legal skill set of the future will require both the ability to engage in visual data manipulation and reading full cases.
It is exciting and also humbling for me to witness the birth of a new generation of legal research platforms. Ravel offers legal research reimagined … untethered from the inherent constraints as well as the familiar conventions of research systems born of print…. Ravel Law opens up a brave new world of legal research for exploration…