Entering the “no hyperbole” zone. No Robots in Sight
I spent almost an hour last Friday talking to Jeff Pfeifer, Vice President of Product Management at Lexis Nexis about the upcoming release of a new artificial intelligence enabled Lexis Advance feature called Lexis Answers. Instead of the “robot lawyer” hyperbole that has characterized many recent AI product announcements, Pfeiffer while enthusiastic for Lexis Answers, is refreshingly restrained in discussing the product. Most importantly he does not oversimplify the true complexity of legal research when applying AI to a specific set of facts. Pfiefer describes Lexis Answers as getting lawyers to a “well informed starting point,” speeding up basic research so lawyers can start more complex research. He sees Lexis Answers the “next evolutionary step in a journey with big data sets which is moving towards human like interactions with machines using standard Dialog.”
Press releaseLexis® Answers, a new artificial intelligence (A.I.) enhancement within its flagship Lexis Advance® offering. Using powerful machine learning, cognitive computing and advanced natural language processing technologies, Lexis Answers transforms legal research by understanding the user’s natural language question and delivering the clearest, most concise and authoritative answer, in addition to finely tuned, comprehensive search results.Learning is based on a universe of 14 million case law opinions.
“Lexis Answers represents a paradigm shift in legal research. By delivering specific and actionable answers at the top of their search results, we’re saving users effort previously spent analyzing pages of search results and legal documents—enhancing their workflow and empowering them to get more done in less time,” said Sean Fitzpatrick, Managing Director of North American Research Solutions at LexisNexis.
The Answer Card
According to Pfeifer “With Lexis Answers, our goal is to create a smarter staring point to legal research. “ When a lawyer types in a natural language question they see “The Answer Card” which displays delivers four key things:
- A concise answer – a starting point to smarter legal research
- The authority for the answer, including case reference and date of the authority
- Related legal topics that should be reviewed for complete and thorough research
- A feedback feature – Was this information useful – Yes or No – that helps LexisNexis train our machine learning algorithms based upon user assessment of answer quality
“Additionally, the result list is specially compiled based upon our analysis of the user’s query and our interpretation of the user’s query intent. The result list is uniquely curated to emphasize additional authority that is relevant to the user’s question.”
Types of Questions
At this time Lexis Answers can provide answers for five types of legal questions:
- Elements of
- Standards of review
- Legal doctrine
- Burden of proof
According to Pfeifer, there are plans to “expand the collection of questions that are supported and mine additional content types as we further build out our machine learning system.”
Under the Hood
Lexis Answers has been in development at Lexis’ Raleigh Tech Center for more than two years. The Raleigh center was established in 2015 as a “congnitive computing center of excellence.” The Lexis Answers questions were informed by anonymized user logs. Specifically they looked at user queries that included input errors such as a really bad query syntax or partial questions that were not fully articulated.
Jeff summed it up as we have been sending The natural language processor to law school ” Several years ago I wrote that the problem with the current state of legal AI was that so far machines could only respond and couldn’t “Ask” questions to help researchers refine and clarify what they need. I am happy to see that LexisNexis is moving toward the research dialogue.
They are designing towards a dialogue. Such is suggesting that the user limit by jurisdiction. They also anticipate voice iteration using clarifying questions to help the user.
I asked Pfeiffer if IBM ‘Watson technology was part of the solution and he indicated that it was not. Lexis/Nexis had internal knowledge which they combined with a variety of open source AI and machine learning technologies as well as programs available from Google and Amazon. These various pieces of technology were customized to meet the requirements of legal research.“ The main goal was to provide immediate utility for standard case law researchers. ”Lexis Answers will be available to all subscribers at no additional cost.
Additional Features to Come – “Ravel Answers”
Although the LexisNexis acquisition of Ravel Law was only announced two weeks ago, they are already exploring how Ravel’s technology can help them extend Lexis answers. Pfeifer anticipates that the Ravel technology should allow them to extract phrases and legal expressions and enable them to add new kinds of questions and answers. In the future, they hope to be able to answer questions about judges, experts and provide various kinds of profiles.
They will provide post search filters so user can limit by jurisdiction in the near future. The only concern I see is that there could be a “legislative gap.” It is not clear to me how a major legislative change which modifies or nullifies caselaw precedent can be reflected in machine learning results “overnight.” For example if there were sweeping tax reform which they changed the statute of limitation for tax fraud, it is not clear to me how this change would be immediately reflected in the results. Pfeifer indicated that they are well aware of this issue and they are using the Lexis Shepherd’s statutory analytics to identify changes in statutes.
I asked if Lexis Answers will be available on any non-English platforms. At this time no but Pfeiffer assured me that the technology they have built will be extensible to non-English platforms.
No Robot Lawyers Just More Efficient Lawyers
Pfeiffer does not make overblown promises that this technology will eliminate associates. He talks like a man with a deep appreciation for the complexities and idiosyncrasies of law would apply to a set of facts. In fact, he stated that there is a rarely question where the first response from Lexis answers is the end of the legal research process.
ThomsonReuters released a similar feature called Westlaw Answers in January 2016. However, that feature covered mostly state answers. LexisAnswers covers or federal and state case law answers. I am not aware of Bloomberg Law offering a similar feature- they only added “natural language” query feature earlier this year and had previously required Boolean queries. Wolters Kluwer has a google-plug-in for their Tax product which enables researchers to enter a natural language query and get an answer. Ross Intelligence also provides a natural language response to queries – their product was limited to bankruptcy law and may recently have expanded to cover Intellectual Property.
Starting Today At No Additional Cost to Subscribers
Starting at noon on June 26 LexisNexis will start to turn on Lexis Answers for each of their accounts. Apparently, this has to be done on a client by client basis and they expect the entire process to be completed by the end of Tuesday, January 27.
Here is the full press release:
LexisNexis Launches Lexis Answers, Infusing New Artificial Intelligence Capabilities
into the Company’s Flagship Legal Research Platform, Lexis Advance
Advanced technologies deliver the most concise and authoritative answers to
common legal questions, plus tailored search results for deeper research
New York, NY—June 26, 2017—LexisNexis® Legal & Professional today announced the launch of Lexis® Answers, a new artificial intelligence (A.I.) enhancement within its flagship Lexis Advance® offering. Using powerful machine learning, cognitive computing and advanced natural language processing technologies, Lexis Answers transforms legal research by understanding the user’s natural language question and delivering the clearest, most concise and authoritative answer, in addition to finely tuned, comprehensive search results.
Unlike traditional search approaches, which require users to translate their query into key words or use Boolean syntax, the Lexis Answers service allows users to enter their query in the form of a natural language question. With the input of a couple of words, the Lexis Answers service can begin anticipating and recommending Suggested Questions to the user. After analyzing millions of annotated legal documents and other content, Lexis Answers delivers the single best possible answer via a Lexis Answer Card. Each Lexis Answer Card links directly to the specific text within the document—rather than just the document itself—significantly speeding up the research process for common legal questions.
“Lexis Answers represents a paradigm shift in legal research. By delivering specific and actionable answers at the top of their search results, we’re saving users effort previously spent analyzing pages of search results and legal documents—enhancing their workflow and empowering them to get more done in less time,” said Sean Fitzpatrick, Managing Director of North American Research Solutions at LexisNexis. “Whether users need answers to common legal questions or they seek deeper insights into more complex queries, Lexis Answers makes it easier and faster to get the specific information they seek.”
Advancing more accurate and complete research, this new A.I. capability suggests related topics that help users logically and intuitively expand their search. It also delivers more comprehensive “traditional” search results tailored to the user’s question and can be further refined using robust filtering options. All of the words within the search question, and added equivalents, are highlighted within the search results and full-text results documents—making it easier for users to find information and determine relevance.
“Today’s announcement of Lexis Answers showcases the significant investments LexisNexis has made in pursuing advanced technologies that transform legal research to better meet the needs of the data-driven lawyer,” said Jeff Pfeifer, vice president of Product Management at LexisNexis. “And our work with Lexis Answers is just beginning. Over time we plan to refine and build this technology out to make it more sophisticated, more inclusive and smarter—delivering a service that actually learns from our users in order to surface the answers they need, save them time and provide even greater actionable insights.”
A.I. technologies have been an important part of the LexisNexis product portfolio for many years. In 1990, LexisNexis pioneered the use of machine learning, and in 1993, launched its first data visualization application—decades before the mainstream use of these technologies. Since these initial forays, LexisNexis has been actively pursuing natural language processing, text-mining, machine learning and other advanced capabilities to deliver state-of-the-art technology to customers and advance legal research into the future. A.I.-enhanced products from LexisNexis include Lexis Advance, Lexis® Litigation Profile Suite, LexisNexis MedMal Navigator®, the Lex Machina® Legal Analytics® platform, Ravel Law and Intelligize®.
Lexis Answers was developed by a team of experts at the LexisNexis Raleigh Technology Center. LexisNexis created its Raleigh, NC based cognitive computing center of excellence in 2015. This group is dedicated to developing artifical intelligence solutions for data-driven lawyers. A team of data scientists, computational linguists, advanced engineering and product management professionals will develop a series of A.I.-powered solutions releasing throughout 2017 and beyond.
Lexis Answers is now available to Lexis Advance subscribers at no additional cost.
About LexisNexis® Legal & Professional
LexisNexis Legal & Professional is a leading global provider of content and technology solutions that enable professionals in legal, corporate, tax, government, academic and non-profit organizations to make informed decisions and achieve better business outcomes. As a digital pioneer, the company was the first to bring legal and business information online with its Lexis® and Nexis® services. Today, LexisNexis Legal & Professional harnesses leading edge technology and world class content to help professionals work in faster, easier and more effective ways. Through close collaboration with its customers, the company ensures organizations can leverage its solutions to reduce risk, improve productivity, increase profitability and grow their business. LexisNexis Legal & Professional, which serves customers in more than 175 countries with 10,000 employees worldwide, is part of RELX Group plc, a world leading global provider of information and analytics solutions for professional and business customers across industries.
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