Is Casetext’s SmartCite poised to disrupt the legal research market? But it is just a citator right? Why would that be? One of the reasons that LexisNexis® and Thomson Reuters have been able to maintain their dominance of the legal research market is the strength and reputation of their citation systems. Shepards dates back to 1873 but was acquired by the parent of LexisNexis® 1996. Thomson Reuters launched KeyCite and 1997. The development of Key Cite uses technology to leverage Thomson Reuters editorial expertise and the deep archive of editorial materials. In 2018 it was enhanced with a an advanced “Overruling risk” feature in Westlaw Edge. In the past decade Bloomberg Law is rumored to have spent $600 million building their BCite citator.
None of the lower cost competitors that have emerged over the past two decades have deep editorial legacies to draw upon or a “deep pocket” owner like Mike Bloomberg. Lower-cost legal research competitors have needed to develop algorithms to even compete in this space. Several years ago Fastcase developed the Bad Law Bot to address the negative history of cases. Casemaker and Ross have also offered a negative history citator. Google Scholar appears to have taken a pass on developing a citator to enhance their caselaw offering. The development of a citator is not for the feint of heart. And until now it was only for companies with deep pockets.
Drumroll Please – Enter the Low Cost Caselaw Citator
Like other citators Casetext SmartCite alerts lawyers to the negative treatment of cases and to other cases they should read. Citation tools mitigate risk and drive efficiency by helping lawyers identify and focus on the most relevant cases for their issue. SmartCite goes beyond the standard positive treatment(green), negative treatment (green) and neutral treatment (yellow). They have also come up with a orange flag similar to the “overruling risk” flag which was released last summer by Thomson Reuters in Westlaw Edge.
Below are the 6 mail features of SmartCite1) red/green/yellow flags;2) orange flags the case relies heavily on an negatively treated case but the case you are reading has not been overrules ( and looks like a reliable precedent)3) a ” CARA-fied” citation list (meaning CARA will provide context-specific list of citing cases)4) Emphasis added (shows you when a specific word/phrase was not just quoted but emphasized in later decision)5) Judicial summaries of how case A treats case B6) “Similar Issues” turns any paragraph into a type of headnote
Casetext has posted an interview with Pablo Arredondo, Casetext Co-founder and Chief Product Officer on their website which provides some fascinating legal history trivia – the first citiator was developed in 1807 by an attorney named Greenleaf who had been humiliated in court by citing to an overruled case.( Who knew?) Arredondo also explains how they have used legal informative which were brought together in SmartCite. I love the fact that they have used AI/machine learning and editorial expertise to surface things like judicial summaries or judge authored “explanatory parentheticals.” They use similar technology to identify the emphasis added in an otherwise identical quotation. Smart lawyers with advanced technology have a shot at leveling the playing field.
Market Impact. There is no such thing as a perfect citator. Lawyers still need to read cases.
For those who are plugging for some lower cost product or combination or products which can challenge the dominance of the high ticket legacy products, Casetext’s SmartCite could be a reason to celebrate.
It will take a lot of testing for the large law market to embrace yet another citiation product, but the market may be ready. There has been a growing risk from a generation of lawyers who grew up on texts and tweets who may not have the patience or perhaps even stamina to read and interpret 50 page judicial opinions. Lawyers have always been tempted to outsource the interpretation of cases to citators . The current generation of citation systems are getting better and better at delivering a variety of insights for a lawyer’s consideration. No citator, no matter how esteemed relieves a lawyer of the responsibility of reading the cases which a citator leads them to. No citator, no matter how iconic is without error. In this context, an upstart like Casetext’s SmartCite could, if it survives the harsh “road testing” in the coming months…could erode the Lexis/Westaw/Bloomberg Law tri-opoly.