The Exhibit Hall at AALL showcased a clear trend towards vendors offering visualization tools to improve the process of legal researching. From a macro level, legal research has transitioned from being a chiefly print-based medium to a primarily electronic-based medium, and, encouragingly, vendors have developed tools to really exploit this shift.

Visualization incorporates the use of graphics to enable the user to quickly comprehend a large amount of data. Visualizations hasten the process of determining the relevancy of some data over other data–this can create significant time savings. Moreover, user interactivity is central to data visualizations. With interactivity, users have the ability to manipulate their graphically-based data (for example: isolating a data set or filtering) to glean specific information.

Here are some visualization examples that were on display at AALL’s Exhibit Hall:

Fastcase’s Interactive Timeline incorporates data visualization into case law searches. After a user inputs a search query, the results are returned as graphics on a timeline. Relevancy is ranked by the size of the graphic, the larger the graphic, the more relevant the data.


(.jpeg courtesy of Fastcase’s blog)

In this visualization, relevancy is based on the number of citing references. Furthermore, three modes of relevancy rankings are graphically visualized: number of times a case has been cited from all of the cases in Fastcase, number of times a case has been cited from other cases in this results list, and the Forecite results. Forecite, introduced by Fastcase back in 2010, are results which may not contain the specific query the user input, but which are cited by the other cases in the results list, and therefore may be relevant.

Fastcase enables the user to isolate data sets by clicking and dragging:


(.jpeg courtesy of Fastcase’s blog)

In the above, the highlighted cases will be isolated, allowing the user to manipulate this smaller, more manageable, and–maybe to his or her needs–more relevant data set.

Ravel, which we reviewed here on iBraryGuy back in June, is another visualization-heavy platform that was also on display at the AALL Exhibit Hall. Ravel, too, uses visualization to display relevancy in case law searches. Results are visualized like this:


Interactively manipulating the data can be done in a number of manners: the data can be sorted by different criteria (Ravel, Court, Relevancy, and Cluster), the date range can be manipulated to be made shorter or longer, the cases can be clicked which leads the user to full text of the cases, and hovering over an individual cases will highlight the referential pathways the case has with other cases in the data set:


LexisNexis has incorporated visualizations into Lexis Advance. A good example of this is Lexis Advance’s Verdict and Settlement Analyzer. After users input criteria for the type of verdict or settlement to be researched, graphs populate showing the number of cases per year, number of cases per year by resolution, award in US dollars by resolution, and percentage of cases by resolution. The information can be filtered down by a bevy of criteria including specific jurisdictions, practice areas, and case resolutions:

Visualizations will become more and more prevalent in legal research interfaces as they have the potential to simplify complex data and save researching time. It will be interesting to observe the ways in which vendors will incorporate “visualized” interfaces into their future products. Judging by the displays at the Exhibit Hall at AALL, software is going to continue to trend this way.