Looking for the right AI for legal research?

Five questions to ask, and how Westlaw Edge leads the way.

By Mary Schlaphoff

“Artificial intelligence is too great an opportunity for lawyers to ignore.”

It’s easy to nod in agreement with anyone who utters this statement. But it’s tougher to get clarity on how to be sure an AI solution delivers real value for lawyers and legal teams.

Westlaw Edge embraces this difficult question and aims to provide honest, comprehensive information about our approach and development process.

To get the whole story about the AI technology you’re considering, start with these five questions.

1. How strong is its data?

AI algorithms can only provide useful information if the underlying data they rely on is strong. The truth is that effective artificial intelligence is much, much more than just having a series of algorithms – AI platforms also need access to the right data sets, and human experts must be involved in structuring the data.

An AI platform built on the foundation of existing, best-in-class data is fundamentally better suited to deliver value than a series of algorithms masquerading as an AI platform.

Westlaw Edge has the largest and most organized collection of legal data available because for more than 100 years, attorney-editors have been analyzing, summarizing, and classifying primary law. In addition, our team of dedicated scientists and technology experts specializing in analytics, artificial intelligence, and data visualization apply cutting-edge research to unlock the full potential of that data for legal researchers.

The Westlaw Edge AI models rank as best in the legal world because Thomson Reuters began with strong data and applied technical expertise to build algorithms that complement our editorial processes.

2. How strong is its team’s legal knowledge?

There is no replacement for real-world legal experience when it comes to incorporating artificial intelligence into the provision of legal services.

Behind Westlaw Edge are more than 500 experienced attorney-editors who make sure the legal content is accurate and accessible. These bar-admitted attorneys have premium legal educations and offer extreme attention to detail, a passion for the law, and an optimistic take on the value that automation can bring to legal organizations.

The Westlaw Edge editorial teams ensure the application of AI technology helps users get answers to their questions faster without sacrificing accuracy. And Westlaw Edge comes with one-on-one research assistance from exclusive Insight Attorneys specially trained in artificial intelligence, big data, and litigation analytics to further support users’ legal research.

“Customers really should care about how much automation is going into the tools they use, and how much is human-driven. The best tools are always going to be a combination of the automation coming from the technology and the insights that a human editor can bring to the situation. The legal language is very, very nuanced. We’re not training computers to replace lawyers. So automation is never going to get you the full picture, but it can eliminate some of the tasks and some of the work that you have to do along the way. It's that combination of the right people and the right technology that really will give you the best solution.”

– Erik Lindberg, Senior Director, Westlaw Product Management

3. How easy is it to use?

Legal researchers have unique needs when it comes to software, and those needs extend to the user interface. Software that’s inviting, intuitive, and fast is the software that gets used most frequently.

Based on extensive research with hundreds of users, its revamped user interface is a major part of the new Westlaw Edge. New filters minimize scrolling, updated toolbars improve efficiency, and new document formatting makes content easy to scan. The new user interface also incorporates additional accessibility features to better serve more customers.

4. What is the company’s history?

New companies in the legal research software industry usually find that there’s a lot of catch-up necessary to create usable, reliable products. This is why many new vendors in the space focus narrowly – for example, on a specific research or practice area – and do not tend to make substantial investments in the overall user experience.

Well-respected companies that have a history in the legal industry have strong advantages. From the amount of available data, to the depth of expertise that can only be built over time, a strong historical foundation in the complicated world of the law translates to leading capabilities in the current world of AI.

Since 1872, Thomson Reuters Westlaw has been gathering the law and incorporating exclusive editorial advantages into our legal products, such as the Key Number System, KeyCite, and Headnotes. Thomson Reuters set the historical precedent for classification in the legal industry, and updates it each year to reflect changes in the law.

5. How strong is its security?

Trust and confidentiality underpin the relationships between our customers and their clients. The tools on which attorneys rely must meet strict security requirements in order for that vital trust to be protected.

Your legal research data is safe and secure on Westlaw Edge, with robust cybersecurity standards based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF). Thomson Reuters encrypts and protects all data with multiple compliance and governance controls including a SOC2 Type 2 report, ISO/IEC 27001, ISO 9001 data center certifications, and third-party and internal risk assessments.

Not all legal research is created equal.

An AI platform for legal research is only as strong as the data, people, processes, experience, and security behind it. For more than 100 years, Westlaw has been collecting, analyzing, and organizing legal data to make legal research easier and faster for users.

Now, with Westlaw Edge, we’ve broken new ground: By fusing AI development with our comprehensive content operation, a new degree of automated intelligence can now be at the fingertips of legal professionals everywhere.

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