Power Tools for Summer Associates: Seven Research / Workflow Tools You Didn't See in Law School
Published on Thu, June 02 byJean O'Grady

Law Schools in the United States have been historically focused on teaching students using caselaw research tools and techniques. In real practice, lawyers need to add a few more tools to their toolkit. During the past decade there has been an explosion of new tools, powered by algorithms and analytics which streamline a variety of traditional tasks which in the past took hours of time. During this period clients have also demanded that law firms leverage tools to make them more efficient. I have outlined below seven important new tools that can help a junior lawyer improve their work product while also saving time and avoiding errors.


  1. 1. Brief Analyzers: Brief analysis tools go beyond cite checking. They not only identify whether the precedents cited in the brief are still “good law,” but they also use AI, natural language processing, and neural networks to recommend cases that you may have missed during your research. Casetext Cara (part of Casetext Research) was the pioneer in this technology, but Westlaw, Bloomberg Law, and Lexis have all now developed brief analysis tools.


When to use: There are three main use cases: when you are updating an older brief, and when you are finalizing a newly drafted brief (an important final step in the review process). Brief analysis tools can be used to locate weak or omitted precedents in an opponent’s brief.


2. Know-how Tools: Thomson Reuters Practical Law, LexisNexis Practical Guidance, and Bloomberg Law Practical Guidance (integrated and available on the Bloomberg Law platform) are considered “know-how” tools. Treatises provide theoretical analysis; know-how tools provide a wealth of step-by-step guidance on how to perform a specific task. These guidance materials include checklists, flow charts, toolkits, practice commentary, and model documents. Know-how guidance materials can also be found in the Practicing Law Institute PLI Plus and Wolters Kluwer VitalLaw platforms.


When to use: When you are trying to get up to speed quickly for a new assignment or when you are looking for a model document, form, process guidance, or checklist.


3. Jurisdictional Surveys: Fifty-state statutory and regulatory survey functionality is available in Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg Law, and Wolters Kluwer SmartCharts (part of VitalLaw). These tools can save hours of research time by quickly generating a chart which compares laws on specific issues across multiple jurisdictions. Products typically provide a link to the full text of each law or regulation.


When to use: If you are given an assignment to locate and compare the statutes or regulations on a specific issue across multiple states or even all 50 states, use a 50-state/jurisdictional survey tool.


4. Docket Tracking and Case Alerts: The clerk of each court compiles case filings in a docket. Many states, counties, and local jurisdictions provide online access to dockets, but some do not. Lexis CourtLink, WestLaw Docket Track, Bloomberg Law, Docket Alarm and Courthouse News all offer docket tracking options.


Tracking. Docket tracking functionality allows you to receive updates on a specific case. Tracks will generate an email alert whenever there is a new filing in that case. Most systems cannot send updates in real time. Instead, the program checks the docket at a set time each day. Check with your firm’s librarians / research analysts to determine the best resource for the specific tracking need.


Alerting. Courthouse News, Docket Alarm and Bloomberg Law provide alerts when a particular individual is named in a complaint, when a company is sued, etc. Costs for trackers and alerts vary across platforms; so check with the librarian / research analysts in your organization to determine the most cost-effective way to set these up.


When to use: When you are asked to monitor a specific case for new filings, or when you are asked to monitor new cases on a person, organization, or topic.


5. Redlining Codes: There are several tools that can quickly redline and compare how the language in codes or regulations has changed over time. These tools are available in Lexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg, and VitalLaw.


When to use: It is sometimes necessary to pinpoint the language of the law at a specific point in time. Code redlining tools highlight changes between versions of a law or regulation.


6. Litigation Analytics: Litigation analytics are an important new source of litigation intelligence. Litigation analytics aggregate docket data from multiple courts. Typical data elements include: party names, judges, attorneys, causes of action, motion type, and time to motion grant/denial An algorithm is used to extract, analyze, and generate reports. Lex Machina, Lexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg Law, Trellis, Docket Alarm and Docket Navigator include litigation analytics. Gavelytics is a solution focused entirely in this area in the United States. In Canada, Court Analytics by Loom Analytics provides a similar capability.


When to use: Most common uses are: gaining insights to the experience of your law firm, your opponent, or the judge assigned to your case; understanding how litigation outcomes differ depending on the court or judge; developing a litigation strategy; managing client expectations; or preparing for a pitch.


7. Deal Analyzers/Deal Analytics/What’s Market: Transactional lawyers need to know what the most common deal terms and clauses are for a particular type of deal. A new class of drafting tools helps lawyers locate exemplar documents or clauses. These tools can redline and compare documents, identify the prevailing “market standard,” and generate deal analytics using filters such as parties, underwriters, deal value, industry, clause types, etc. These tools are available from Lexis Nexis Intelligize, Thomson Reuters Practical Law, Bloomberg Law, and Wolters Kluwer M&A Deal Analytics.


When to use: The use cases are limitless, but here are some sample scenarios:

  • - During the drafting process, see what clauses your firm has used in similar prior deals. 
  • - Compare your draft document with the market standard using custom criteria.
  • - See what clauses a counterparty has agreed to in the past.
  • - Generate a league table highlighting your firm's experience in an industry or involvement in certain kinds of deals.


Bonus: Parallel Search

Casetext's Parallel Search uses advanced neural networks to provide a new kind of search. With help from a neural transformer model trained on the law, Parallel Search uses complete sentences to find you results with matching concepts, even if they use none of the same keywords. Use Parallel Search as a first stop for your legal research.


Advanced Research and Workflow Tools


Product TypeWestlaw Lexis Bloomberg LawOther
Litigation Analytics
  • Lex Machina
  • Docket Alarm
  • Trellis
  • Gavelytics
Brief Analysis
  • Casetext Cara
Practical Guidance
  • PLI Plus
  • VitalLaw
  • Pacer
  • Courthouse News
  • Docket Alarm
Redlining Codes
  • VitalLaw
50-State Comparison
  • VitalLaw
Deal Analytics Clause Redlining What’s Market  
  • LN Intelligize
  • TR Practical Law
  • WK M&A Clause Analytics


Neural Network Search   Casetext Parallel Search


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