LexisNexis is today announcing the launch of Lexis Answers, a feature that brings artificial intelligence to the Lexis Advance legal research platform. With Lexis Answers, a researcher can ask a natural-language question and get back the single-best answer in the form of what Lexis is calling a Lexis Answer Card.

LexisNexis says that Lexis Answers uses powerful machine learning, cognitive computing and advanced natural language processing technologies to deliver the single best and most authoritative answer, in addition to comprehensive but more precise search results.

“Lexis Answers is designed to help a lawyer get more complete information from a query by parsing the query to understand its intent and then delivering a precise answer to the question that’s been asked,” Jeff Pfeifer, vice president, product management, told me on Friday.

The answer is delivered in the form of an Answer Card, which both provides the answer and links to the specific text within the document that is the source of the answer. In addition, Lexis Answers suggests related topics and concepts to help the researcher expand the search.

Lexis Answers is available to all Lexis Advance subscribers at no extra cost. Users need do nothing to activate it — if the user enters a query in Lexis Advance that is suitable for Lexis Answers, the Answer Card will appear as a query result.

Parsing the User’s Intent

With today’s launch, Lexis Answers works only with questions that fall into one of five common categories: standards of review, burdens of proof, elements of claims, standard legal definitions, and core legal doctrines.

For example, the question, “What is the burden of proof for fraud in New York?” would produce an Answer Card with the specific answer, as well as standard search results and suggestions of related topics.

“Previously we would have run that query as a natural language or Boolean search,” said Pfeifer. “Now we parse the language of the query to identify the user’s intent so we can provide a specific answer.”

Users are not required to enter fully formed questions, Pfeifer said. Rather, the machine learning application parses the query and dynamically mines the underlying data set for the answer. Answers are not pre-processed and stored, but answered in real time.

“Because the user’s query is linguistically dissected as opposed to term-matched, we can present a better answer as well as related terms and concepts,” Pfeifer said. “Instead of dissecting a query, we’re understanding linguistically the intent of the query.”

The machine learning that underlies Lexis Answers has been trained using content from case law and legal dictionaries. Over time, it will be expanded to include additional content.

Related Concepts

For Lexis Answers, Lexis has constructed a Knowledge Graph – a graph of relationships and associated concepts – that helps it present recommendations of related legal concepts. (This is the “see also” section in the image at the top of this post.) In the future, the graph will display related entities, documents and other material.

“The knowledge graph grows and relationships are created over time as additional content is processed by our machine learning algorithms,” Pfeifer said.

I have not yet seen or used Lexis Answers, but as Pfiefer described it to me, it sounded similar to ROSS Intelligence, which has garnered much attention in the past year for its AI-powered legal research. Both Lexis Answers and ROSS use AI to help researchers find the “best” answer based on natural language queries. (I also have not used ROSS, although I’ve asked the company to provide me with access or a demo.) Pfiefer also hasn’t seen ROSS, but he agreed that the two research tools may be similar in that they are both based on machine learning technologies that try to map the intent of the query against a set of trained data.

More AI to Come

Lexis Answers was developed over the last 18 months at LexisNexis’s Raleigh Technology Center, where a team of data scientists, computational linguists, advanced engineering and product management professionals are developing various AI products for lawyers. LexisNexis says that it will be releasing additional AI products throughout this year and beyond.

Future development of Lexis Answers will also benefit from LexisNexis’s recent acquisition of Ravel Law, Pfeifer said. Already, the LexisNexis Raleigh team and Ravel’s development team have started working together and plans are underway to add new question types to Lexis Answers based on Ravel’s court and judge analytics.

“We’re excited about this because it really represents the beginnings of a fairly foundational transformation in the way people query large data sets,” Pfeifer said. “In the past, the focus has been on constructing Boolean searches or using the right keywords. Now, we’re at a pivotal point in interacting with large data sets. The interaction becomes more dialog-like — the interaction will be more like human interaction.”

Lexis Answers is LexisNexis’s first foray into cognitive computing, but Pfeifer said he cares less about labels such as artificial intelligence and machine learning and more about the utility being delivered to the end users.

“The end result for the attorneys should simply be better answers to their questions,” Pfeifer said. “The idea that it has to be a machine-learning application is less relevant than that the user of the machine-learning technology is delivered a better answer.”

jury-duty-jury-boxAs the time-honored saying goes, there’s no substitute for the real thing. In the legal field, this is perhaps never truer than when you’re facing trial and about to put your client’s fate in the hands of a group of strangers.

Litigators have long recognized the value of jury consulting. As much as lawyers like to have confidence in their trial strategies, having actual people hear the evidence and weigh in on it provides insight that can’t be gained anywhere else. Consulting a mock jury is unquestionably the best way to get a true sense of how a trial might go.

Unfortunately, though, many trials haven’t been able to capitalize on the benefits that jury consulting can offer. Historically, there have been two major barriers that have prevented most litigators from employing jury consulting in their cases: high costs and a lack of technology in this area.

Until recently, attorneys who wanted to conduct jury research had the sole option of assembling and presenting a costly and time-consuming “mock trial.” The entire process would typically cost upwards of $50,000 and take weeks, if not months, to pull together. Typically, only the wealthiest of clients or the most high-stakes cases opted for such a significant investment. The rest were left wishing there was a more efficient and cost-effective way to accomplish the same thing.

Enter DecisionQuest. Leaders in the trial consulting industry for over 30 years, DecisionQuest has brought the process online and adapted it to today’s digital age. With the help of two invaluable products, JuryLive and CaseXplorer, any litigator can obtain expedited mock jury trial findings and online jury surveys at the fraction of the time and cost of a traditional mock trial. Now, even those with limited time and budgets can reap the benefits of jury research.

Online Mock Juries

Gone are the days when presenting your evidence to a mock jury required the arduous task of finding 12 people who could disrupt their daily lives to be in the same room at the same. JuryLive offers an efficient online alternative to the traditional mock jury.

Surrogate jurors are recruited from the actual pool of jurors who are eligible to serve in a given venue, matching the demographics of the real jury who will ultimately decide your case. Once the group is chosen, they serve virtually, from the comforts of their own home. For two hours, lawyers have the opportunity to present any evidence they’d like to the virtual panel to get their opinions and reactions. Be it physical evidence, trial graphics, or witness testimony, anything is fair game for JuryLive – if you can present it in court, you can present it here.

After the lawyers are done presenting the evidence, the mock jury then has a group discussion, moderated by an expert jury consultant. This is where you get invaluable feedback and get to find out what real people think about your case, because you get to see the deliberations in real time. It doesn’t get any more real than watching jurors from your actual venue argue the pros and cons of your case.

At the conclusion of the session, you receive not only a video of the entire discussion, but also the chance to discuss your trial strategy with the moderator. These moderators are the same jury consultants who have long been conducting expert jury research. Armed with a real-life sense of how your case will be received, you’re better able to strengthen your trial strategy or develop a winning settlement position.

With the way JuryLive is structured, you have the option to test as few or as many aspects of your case as you want in any number of two-hour sessions. Because the online mock juries can be assembled in a fraction of the time it takes to convene a traditional live mock jury, you have the luxury of being able to run multiple tests over time as your trial strategy develops. The beauty of the whole process being online is that you get the same insight for a lot less time and money.

Tailored Jury Questionnaires

In addition to the more traditional mock jury approach, DecisionQuest offers CaseXplorer, which allows you to present online questionnaires to prospective jurors to probe certain aspects of your case. Unlike JuryLive or a live mock jury, jury surveys don’t rely on a pool of people all being available at the exact same time. However, they still allow you to get real-life feedback on specific trial issues.

At the price of $70 per respondent, the cost of administering a survey is far less than the expenses associated with convening a traditional mock jury. It’s also much faster. While response times can vary based on your venue – it may take a little longer to recruit enough respondents in a small community – for most large cities like Los Angeles or New York, you can typically respect to see your results in as little as 24 hours. Combined with the time it takes you to draft your questions, you’re looking at a mere three to four day turnaround for valuable insight into your case. With such quick response times, there’s almost no reason not to test out the most crucial issues in your case.

CaseXplorer gives you two options: you can draft your own questions, tailored to the specific facts of your case, or you can select pre-drafted template questions, broken down by area of law, that address some of the most common issues in certain kinds of cases. Of course, you can also do a combination of the two. There really is no limit to your ability to ask exactly the questions that you most want answers to.

As with JuryLive, the individuals who will be answering your survey questions are recruited from the actual pool of jury-qualified individuals in your venue. As an additional benefit, before you prepare the questions, you can see the likely jury breakdown and demographic profile of the specific community where your trial will take place – for free. That’s right: simply by registering, you can get a tailored profile of your future jury pool.

Getting real feedback from real potential jurors in your venue has never been easier or more cost-effective. Every case can benefit from this kind of insight.

The New Approach to Jury Research

In today’s digital age, people have come to expect information on demand. While jury research will never be instantaneous, DecisionQuest’s products come as close to that as possible, with online mock jury and jury questionnaire results available at previously unheard of turnaround times.

The best part of all is that, while JuryLive and CaseXplorer are each invaluable tools in their own rights, they work even better in combination. For the best possible insight, you can get an initial reaction to your major case issues by conducting a questionnaire through CaseXplorer, and then call back a subset of the same jury pool to probe the most pressing issues more deeply with through a JuryLive discussion.

You also have access to some of the most experienced jury consultants in the business. Drawing on decades of insight into jury psychology, these experts can help you choose the best elements of your case to test, ensuring that you’re getting the most value for your money.

Because both tools choose participants from the actual pool of jury qualified individuals in your venue, JuryLive and CaseXplorer help you uncover potential biases in your jury pool that you might not otherwise know about. This is unprecedented access to the real people who will ultimately decide your client’s fate.

We all know that trials can be stressful. When the stakes are high, you want to offer your client every possible advantage for developing a winning strategy. Thankfully, jury research is no longer just a luxury for the wealthy. With DecisionQuest, unrivaled insight is available for any case, regardless of your time or resources.

There’s really no better way to know how a jury will react to your case than to ask them directly. CaseXplorer and JuryLive allow you to do just that. It’s time to let technology work for you, so you can focus on getting the best possible outcome for your client.