The Raveler
May 17, 2017

3 Ways Attorneys Use Data Visualization to Improve Legal Research

Imagine you’re on a cross-country road trip, and instead of navigating with a map, navigational choices include only the following options:

  1. An alphabetical list of cities near your route;
  2. A list of cities near your route, sorted by population; and
  3. Either of the lists above, plus basic filtering options (distance, city size, etc.)

You’d probably cancel your trip with that kind of navigational system. Though each of these pieces of information are extremely important, in isolation their utility is limited. This is exactly the problem with legal research today. To improve the legal research process, we’re big fans of using data visualization. Data visualization allows you to: (1) better understand the legal landscape, (2) mitigate the risk of missing a diamond in the haystack, and (3) improve your personal efficiency.

Understand the entire legal landscape

When looking at a visual map of related cases, much like when using an interstate roadmap, one can easily identify the important cases (destination cities), how they connect to each other via citation (highways), and major outliers (off-route tourist traps).

When you are new to an area of law - or even if you’re researching a familiar area of law, but it is in an unfamiliar jurisdiction - it is critical for you to get your bearings straight before doing anything else. Data visualization allows you to understand how each case written on a particular topic relates to all other cases on that topic; most importantly data visualization allows you to immediately identify important cases (whether they be precedent setting seminal cases or outliers).

Mitigate the risk of missing a needle in the haystack

How likely do you think it is that you are missing a diamond in the haystack with today’s legal research tools? All you have to ask yourself is how often you read past case #20 on the search result list. In our experience talking with associates, associates duly recognize that in an ideal world they would have an understanding of the full body of cases on a particular topic but that with the realistic anchor on their time they are in far from an ideal world. This is where next generation data visualization comes in. Data visualization replaces arbitrary stopping points and helps attorneys verify that they’ve conducted an exhaustive search of the relevant case law. Instead of scrolling through the list of 100 cases, you see an interrelated map of all of these cases. At a cursory glance you can make sure you aren’t missing any relevant, recent, or otherwise important cases.

Increase your personal efficiency

It is extremely tedious and time consuming to navigate a list of 100 cases on any given topic. Data visualization reduces wasted hours by quickly pointing you to relevant law and putting you in a position to intelligently go about your research.

Whether you’re navigating a research trail or a real trail, there are few better ways to get a lay of the land than by using a map. That’s why at Ravel, we’ve mapped the law. Lawyers need a map now more than ever to navigate relevant case law. Try Ravel today.

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