ROSS Intelligence start-up lands $8.7M to augment legal research with AI

From TechCrunch:

Armed with an understanding of machine learning, ROSS Intelligence is going after LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters for ownership of legal research.

… “Bluehill benchmarks Lexis’s tech and they are finding 30 percent more relevant info with ROSS in less time,” Andrew Arruda, co-founder and CEO of ROSS, explained to me in an interview.

ROSS is using a combination of off the shelf and proprietary deep learning algorithms for its AI stack. The startup is using IBM Watson for at least some of its natural language processing capabilities, but the team shied away from elaborating.

But the most telling quote:

“The work ROSS is doing with law schools and law students is interesting,” Karam Nijjar, a partner at iNovia Capital and investor in ROSS, asserted. “As these students enter the workforce, you’re taking someone using an iPhone and handing them a BlackBerry their first day on the job.”


I found this article in the KnowItAALL newsletter.

Courthouse Help Centers for Pro Se Litigants

From the Hamilton County Law Library Blog:

The Hamilton County Courthouse has a new tenant, one that will hopefully help level the playing field for Pro Se litigants attempting to navigate the legal system on their own.

The Help Center, located on the first floor of the Courthouse in room 113, is an amazing new resource for anyone with questions or who needs help with a legal topic. Staffed by a fully-licensed attorney and law students from UC, this center offers guidance and limited legal advice for any wishing to represent themselves or for those who cannot afford an attorney.

There are no salary caps or other restrictions on who can be seen. Currently, the Help Center focuses on small claims, evictions, garnishments and judgments and has many guides and cheat sheets about each topic. Staff and volunteers can help patrons understand and fill out forms, prepare for an upcoming court date, understand court processes and procedures and even give coaching on how to represent yourself.

Both “Self Help Centers” and “Law Libraries as Resource Centers” are listed in this 2008 Self-Represented Litigation Network report on Best Practices in Court-Based Programs for the Self-Represented, and this 2015 NCSC Trends report has an article that talks about law library-court collaborations. It would be interesting to know how many courts in the U.S. currently house Help Centers with law librarians on hand to help pro se litigants. I’ll look in those reports to get a general idea, and follow the trail from there.


The Federal Courts Web Archive

The Federal Courts Web Archive launched about two weeks ago, showcasing previous websites for the Supreme Court, federal appellate courts, trial courts, and other tribunals.

From the In Custodia Legis blog:

These sites contain a wide variety of resources prepared by federal courts, such as: slip opinions, transcripts, dockets, court rules, calendars, announcements, judicial biographies, statistics, educational resources, and reference materials. The materials available on the federal court websites were created to support a diverse array of users and needs, including attorneys and their clients, pro se litigants seeking to represent themselves, jurors, visitors to the court, and community outreach programs.

The site could be of great use for researchers, especially those exploring how courts have technologically responded to the access to justice movement.

The Law Library of Congress’s In Custodia Legis blog also has a good overview of the courts and the resources available on their websites.

Instagram and Snapchat Videos as Short-Form Library Tutorials

For those of us who like to use visuals to teach and learn:

[Librarian Cindy] Craig has a splendid new essay up in In the Library with the Lead Pipe, called “Modular Short Form Video for Library Instruction”; although it’s pitched at librarians, it’s useful for anyone interested in teaching multi-step processes.

[…]she focused on SnapChat, which allows 15-second videos, and Instagram, which allows 10 (and which also has the Boomerang app that lets you cycle images quickly back and forth). You can see the results here

Craig’s list of best practices is pretty sound:

  • Carefully map out the research process from start to finish. Don’t assume users will even know how to find your library’s website.
  • Break up the research process into smaller chunks. Think about where users are likely to get stuck or confused. Your videos should help users over these hurdles.

You can read the rest of Cindy Craig’s best practices in Jason B. Jones’ article on The Chronicle of Higher Education’s ProfHacker blog. Her library’s 10 Second Library Hacks page on Instagram seems helpful, although I agree with Jones assertion that free screencasting software would look more attractive to users than a smartphone video recording. Also, the article states that Instagram only allows 10-second videos. I believe this time was increased to 15 seconds, and then recently increased again to a full 60 seconds. Lots of time there for a quick tip or two.

I will try to replicate this on our new (and barely used) Instagram page. It will be interesting to see how law library patrons engage with video tutorials. I predict that half the battle will be making patrons aware that we have an Insta page. Many seem tethered to the idea that a law library = books-and-study-space only, and seem genuinely (but pleasantly) surprised when they learn we have social media, presentations, reference hours, etc.

Obviously, anything we place on our public social media will be findable for members of the general public, too. In addition to library-specific tutorials, it could also be fun to use that 60-second window of time to give user-friendly and plain language topical overviews, such as a 101 tutorial showing users how to navigate online self-help legal resources.

I found this article in the American Association of Law Libraries’ KnowItAALL newsletter.



Law Library of Congress Releases New Chatbot

From the Law Library of Congress In Custodia Legis blog:

We are excited to announce the release of a new chatbot that can connect you to primary sources of law, Law Library research guides and our foreign law reports. The chatbot has a clickable interface that will walk you through a basic reference interview.

Users can find the chatbot on the Law Library of Congress Facebook page by clicking on the “Send Message” button near their cover photo. I tested it out, and it seems like a great resource to pass along to patrons just getting started on their legal research and just need to be pointed in the right direction.

The Law Library will add to the chatbot’s vocabulary based on user interactions, so it should be interesting to watch as this new feature matures.