Tuesday, October 18, 2016

CARA - New Feature on Casetext

Do you find it difficult to translate a legal issue into a search query to generate a manageable list of on-point cases? Check out CARA - a new Casetext tool!

If you are not yet familiar with Casetext, it provides free caselaw research to over 10 million cases, statutes, and regulations; it includes all federal cases since 1925 (published and unpublished) and state appellate cases from all 50 states. It is updated daily. See my previous post about Casetext.

Casetext rolled out a new feature called CARA (Case Analysis Research Assistant) in July. CARA will find cases that are relevant to a particular legal memorandum or brief. Users upload a document and CARA analyzes it and generates a list of relevant cases not cited in the document. CARA does this by identifying dozens of factors including the legal authority cited and the subject matter discussed in the document. CARA uses a proprietary algorithm, then automatically searches Casetext's database to locate similar, on-point cases. CARA uses indicators to weigh relevance, including how often cases are jointly cited.

CARA could be very useful in a couple of ways:

l. If you just received your opponent's memorandum in support of a motion to dismiss, upload the document to CARA and it will quickly generate a list of cases that are on point with your issue, but that your opponent has not included in the document. This can be a very effective tool as you research and begin drafting your reply, and are trying to find potential missing arguments or alternative arguments not discussed within your opponent's document.

2. Double-check your own research, whether in rough draft or a final version, by uploading your document to CARA to see if you have missed any important cases.

CARA does not replace traditional legal research systems, but it could be a powerful supplementary tool. It may help you locate cases you missed using other search methods or help you locate cases more efficiently. Legal research continues to be a very human process, but one that can be prone to human error.

l. CARA is not effective for case law that is less than one year old. If cases cited within a document are more than one or two years old, CARA can be very effective.
2. If you are using a scanned document, be sure to OCR it before uploading.
3. CARA is not accessible in the free Casetext basic plan. Check out the cost of their research plans.

Privacy Issue?
Attorneys may be concerned with security and confidentiality of legal documents they upload to CARA. Casetext, however, addresses this concern by encrypting the uploaded document and, after processing, the document is immediately deleted from Casetext's servers.

Want to Try It?
If you are a Casetext registered user, just sign in and click on the CARA link. If you are new to Casetext, you will need to sign up for a free trial.

Another exciting  new development on the legal research front!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016



Brilliant ideas can come at any time--like my idea for this week's post-- and you don't always have pen and paper handy. Enter Penultimate. While, not necessarily a research tool, it can be thought of as a productivity tool to help capture your research ideas, and as such, is a helpful research app for iPads. And with an estimated 79.7 million iPad users, there's a good chance you have access to one.

This is an Evernote product, so your notes sync to your Evernote account. This has several advantages. Unlike handwritten notes, these notes are searchable and you can access them from any of your devices, depending on your Evernote account. You can also export them as PDFs. Additional features include the ability to highlight, erase, and move things around.

Flowcharts and other various diagrams, like timelines, can be especially useful to help understand complex issues. However, I am reluctant to create flowcharts on the computer because of the time it takes me to design them, especially if I am short on time and need to capture my idea quickly. I do draw them on paper often, but hadn't found a good way to incorporate them into my typed notes until now.

I think this tool would be helpful also for  group study sessions. 1Ls listen up! If you use Penultimate in conjunction with an Apple TV, you can project your notes from your iPad and then share them with your group members via your Evernote account.

Penultimate offers a variety of paper options in addition to the usual plain or lined versions. Just have the perfect guitar riff pop in your head? Need a break from studying? They have a paper option for that!

I think Penultimate is definitely worth checking out as an alternative to paper.

Looking for a voice recognition alternative to paper? Check out my earlier post on DragonDictation.