Is better case law data fueling a legal research boom? Recently, Rebecca Fordon noticed a surge of new and innovative legal research tools. Fordon wondered what could be fueling this increase, and set off to find out more.
Jocelyn Stilwell-Tong, Law Librarian, California Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District, has determined that although free AI online is useful, the developing products from major legal research platforms show great promise. These paid products control for issues like hallucinations, and provide citations supporting their work so a researcher can confirm the accuracy and context of the materials the AI is pulling from. Issues surrounding data governance (what the company does with your uploaded material and search history) can be controlled by contract, and the legal vendors understand that this is a concern for most legal clients.
The emergence of Large Language Models (LLMs) in legal research signifies a transformative shift. This article by Sean Harrington critically evaluates the advent and fine-tuning of Law-Specific LLMs, such as those offered by Casetext, Westlaw, and Lexis. Unlike generalized models, these specialized LLMs draw from databases enriched with authoritative legal resources, ensuring accuracy and relevance. Harrington highlights the importance of advanced prompting techniques and the innovative utilization of embeddings and vector databases, which enable semantic searching, a critical aspect in retrieving nuanced legal information. Furthermore, the article addresses the ‘Black Box Problem’ and explores remedies for transparency. It also discusses the potential of crowdsourcing secondary materials as a means to democratize legal knowledge. In conclusion, this article emphasizes that Law-Specific LLMs, with proper development and ethical considerations, can revolutionize legal research and practice, while calling for active engagement from the legal community in shaping this emerging technology.
Iantha Haight writes that her library recently hosted a guest speaker, David Wingate, a professor in BYU’s computer science department who does research on large language models, for a faculty lunch and learn. The entire presentation was fascinating, but the most intriguing part for me and many of the law faculty in attendance was the idea that generative AI systems will become so good they will be able to replace human subjects in answering research surveys. How? Generative neural networks trained on huge amounts of data—terabytes and even petabytes—ingest enough information about people that they can answer survey questions as if they were members of the survey population.
Sarah Gotschall, Associate Librarian Reference Librarian & Professor of Practice, University of Arizona Law, puts ChatGPT through the paces with a series of engaging questions and answers she has documented, adding additional dimension to the significant interest in the all the rage chatbot.
Christine Park, Adjunct Professsor of Law, Fordham Law Library highlights risks of and legal restrictions related to digital rights management. LLRX welcomes further discussion of efforts to implement solutions, “before it’s too late.” See also David H. Rothman’s article Will Amazon’s new ePub capability help the anti-DRM movement?
Putting a Spotlight on Civics Education: How Law Librarians Are Helping to Bridge the Access to Justice Gap
Diane M. Rodriguez Assistant Director of the San Francisco Law Library in California, and 2021–22 president of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), where one of her many goals is to advocate for access to legal information that supports access to justice. She expertly articulates the work, and the role of law librarians, that comprise this mission.
Marshall Voizard is a law firm reference supervisor. He shares significant insights into the profession in the time of COVID. Voizard states that the past 18 months have accelerated positive changes, illustrating to all that the library is no longer primarily a physical place, but rather an entire ecosystem of electronic legal information resources. Our expert guidance is needed more than ever.
As we all navigate through the era of Covid, it is critical to learn from the myriad other medical challenges that many Americans, as well as our professional colleagues, are facing separate from the pandemic. Taryn L. Rucinski, Supervisory Librarian, U.S. Court of International Trade, shares her ongoing experience with the diagnosis of acoustic neuroma. Rucinski believes in the value of showing that its okay to take a step back, to step down, to lateral, to just take a breath in the face of challenges and adversity. She continues, saying experience has also shown her that our skills as law librarians are far more valuable than we may give them credit for. She highlights four significant factors that have kept her on the road to recovery: the unflagging support of the LLAGNY community, the flexibility and skills she has honed in her profession, and the importance of self care.
Stephanie Farne, Legal Information Librarian and Lecturer in Law at Boston College Law School, raises increasingly important issues respective to the bias inherent in artificial intelligence powered search algorithms, both on the Internet and in commercial databases.