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Part II: Casetext Is Three-Dimensional Research – Watch How A Real Lawyer Uses It

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As I observed in PART I of this post, for decades, legal research — even with later innovations – has been flat and one-dimensional, mimicking the way that lawyers once hunted for cases in hard copy case reporters and digests. But the latest version of Casetext  transforms the legal research experience into something at once elegant and practical and three-dimensional. Here’s what I mean (note – you can see these features in action on my demo video below – I used the  Schoenefeld case regarding New York’s bonafide office rule as my “case study”)

    • Casetext’s flagship product, CARA lets you get in “under the hood” of a brief, by analyzing the brief and identifying important precedent that’s been overlooked. It’s a great tool for lawyers drafting briefs since it can give them confidence that they’ve not left anything out – but it’s an even better tool for reviewing an opposing counsel’s case since you may dredge up relevant precedent that’s been intentionally omitted (gotcha!) In other words, with Casetext, lawyers no longer need to take briefs at face value.
    • CARA doesn’t just spew out results, but takes care to present them in a manner that integrates with a busy lawyer’s practice. Once CARA produces a list of cases that haven’t been cited, users can check the ones they want, and CARA will print a list along with each case, all in one handy-dandy package. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Casetext will introduce a tool that will list and print all of the cases cited in a brief as well – so that I don’t have to spend several hours compiling all of the cases cited in the parties briefs to upload to my iPad for an organ argument or motion. It also appears that CARA has started to add the briefs associated with the cases that it generates. And unlike some of its competitors, access to the briefs is included in the subscription price (more on that below)
    • Do you find case headnotes as useless as I do? Most of the time, they seem to bear little resemblance to the actual case. Casetext has a killer solution for that too: have the judges and their clerks do the work instead. Casetext culls the parenthetical descriptions of cases from other decisions, and aggregates them in a list.  The parentheticals function as headnotes – by providing short summaries of the case up front (except they are far more accurate).
    • Casetext also highlights those “money quotes” in decisions – the ones that you can just cut and plop into a brief. Again, Casetext doesn’t just generate those passages in a vacuum, but makes it simple to cut the passage, turn it into a quote or parenthetical and drop it into a brief where it will appear properly formatted, with a Bluebook-approved citation!

Instead of silo’ing legal research, Casetext integrates it into what lawyers do. And instead of making legal research all about finding the cases that we need through brute search, Casetext has developed an elegant way to help us find the ones we’ve overlooked. What’s more, Casetext isn’t priced out of reach either –  Casetext itself is free, and the full-featured version with CARA is just $119/month  – which is actually a fraction of the cost of WEXIS for far better value.

Casetext brings to mind a term that I never thought I would associate with legal research (or most legal tech for that matter):  imagination. With technology, the evisceration of the WEXIS duopoly that stifled innovation for so long, and the crazy enthusiasm of the genius Casetext team, who knows where legal research will go next?

Post Update, 2:09 pm – A follower on Twitter commented that he found the CARA results that he generated using the tool to be useless. I suspect that may be true in some instances – and I should have addressed the issue of accuracy. One reason that I used the Schoenefeld case as a sample was because it deals with the bonafide office rule and lawyer residency requirements and has a long history of litigation across jurisdictions. Because of that, I found the CARA results to be generally accurate (at quick glance) when going through some of the briefs in that case. By contrast, I did test CARA a year ago using energy regulatory cases – there are only about 20-30 of these types of cases decided every year and CARA was not at all helpful in finding relevant cases. There were also a couple of other quirks in the search results that I will save for another day – where I compared search results in Fastcase, Casetext, Google Scholar and LEXIS Advance.