LexisNexis Builds AI-Powered Legal Brief Analysis Tool Using AWS

2021
Writing a high-quality legal brief is not easy. Lawyers, case managers, and other researchers must scour documents to find relevant information for their cases—an arduous, error-prone, and time-consuming process. If a lawyer submits a poorly written brief with irrelevant sources, the court will not accept it. Many litigators spend hours of unbillable time searching for relevant cases to feature in their briefs.
 
LexisNexis Legal & Professional (LexisNexis), a global provider of information and analytics, wanted to streamline this process. It participated in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Digital Innovation Program to build Brief Analysis, a tool powered by artificial intelligence. Built on AWS and part of Lexis+, Brief Analysis reduces the time it takes litigators to research and write high-quality briefs. By providing personalized feedback based on over 27 million cases, briefs, pleadings, and motions in the LexisNexis database, Brief Analysis takes the guesswork out of legal research.
Abstract view of neoclassical fluted columns, bases and steps of the US Supreme Court building in Washington DC
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We use a knowledge graph on Amazon Elasticsearch Service to gather the data that produces intelligent recommendations.”

Elizabeth Christman
Senior Director of Case Law and Product Management,
LexisNexis Legal & Professional

Streamlining the Brief-Writing Process

LexisNexis strives to improve productivity and decision-making for litigators. “When attorneys are drafting or responding to legal documents, they look to LexisNexis for the answers to their legal questions,” says Alison Manchester, vice president of primary law at LexisNexis. “Finding those answers was a challenge because of the volume of data we process—often over one million documents in a day. So imagine the scope of work an attorney faces when they’re trying to find the answer in that huge pile of data.”

To improve the speed and efficiency of legal research, LexisNexis explored the challenges writers and litigators face. “Writing briefs has a tremendous impact on an attorney’s time,” says Elizabeth Christman, senior director of case law and product management at LexisNexis. “They often spend 70–80 percent of their time researching and writing. It seemed like an opportunity to develop a solution to save time and alleviate these pain points.” Creating an analysis tool for Lexis+ would streamline research. However, it would need to scale exponentially to meet user demand, and LexisNexis did not have the capability to build this solution on premises.

Because LexisNexis uses AWS services daily, it was a natural choice to build Brief Analysis on AWS. LexisNexis participated in an AWS Digital Innovation workshop to apply the “working backwards” methodology to its development processes, which encourages business owners and product teams to ideate customer products by brainstorming user needs first and then developing solutions based on particular issues. “The workshop fits with our overall philosophy of putting customers first and keeping them in mind in everything we do,” says Manchester. “Participating in the workshop helped bring our Brief Analysis tool to the next level and enabled us to take the concrete steps to complete it.”
 
This process was effective for the LexisNexis team. “We sketched design ideas and discussed which ones best addressed our customers’ needs,” says Cindy McCracken, lead of UX research at LexisNexis. “The storyboards we created demonstrating customer reactions to the finished product continued to serve as inspiration as we built our solution.”

Building a Comprehensive Analysis Tool on AWS

LexisNexis began developing Brief Analysis in 2019. It was built in Lexis Labs, an internal company network of engineers using advanced technologies and innovative design techniques. The company decided to integrate the tool into Lexis+, a suite of tools for legal research. Lexis+ is a paid product, so LexisNexis took extra time to build Brief Analysis to meet premium standards, releasing it in September 2020. “Users note that it saves time in the writing process,” says Christman. “The tool generates recommendations based on an uploaded document, and users sometimes find information that they may not have found otherwise. Brief Analysis is helping them find good case law more quickly, and it might be leading to better briefs overall.”

Brief Analysis provides personalized research recommendations based on citation patterns and legal concepts in a user’s brief. The tool is powered by Amazon Elasticsearch Service, a fully managed service that’s simple to deploy, secure, and run cost effectively at scale. “We use a knowledge graph on Amazon Elasticsearch Service to gather the data that produces intelligent recommendations,” says Christman. Using Amazon Neptune, a fast, reliable, fully managed graph database service, Brief Analysis canvases over 27 million pieces of legal content in only 11 seconds.

To use Brief Analysis, a user first uploads a legal document on the tool’s home page, which extracts specific legal concepts and factual information using LexisNexis’s patented concept-mapping technology and machine learning techniques. It also applies a comprehensive Shepard’s Citations analysis—which enables researchers to track legal resources within their historical contexts—to improve arguments and identify weaknesses within the user’s text. Using artificial intelligence models developed by Lexis Labs, Brief Analysis shows the depth of coverage in a user’s jurisdiction and links legal concepts or issues found in the original document, saving time and strengthening arguments. Users can adjust criteria, dismiss irrelevant results, and change jurisdiction to find useful data, saving significant time compared to performing these tasks manually.

Since the release of Brief Analysis, 89 percent of customer feedback has been positive. “LexisNexis has gone above and beyond with this tool,” says a law student at Barry University. “The brief recommendations made it even easier for me to complete my brief.” A student at Capital University Law School calls it an “outstanding product,” adding, “Brief Analysis gave me additional case citations to consider, and it especially assisted in navigating the minefield of overruled or questioned decisions already cited.” A student from Columbia Law School said: “Brief Analysis was extremely helpful. The cases are easy to find and hit the major key themes of the brief.”

Seeing Positive Feedback and Promising Results

On AWS, LexisNexis was able to build a tool that helps litigators write high-quality briefs and complete their legal research in a fraction of the time. Brief Analysis not only makes LexisNexis more attractive to large law firms but also enables the company to expand its customer base to smaller entities. “This tool can help small firms compete with bigger firms,” says Christman. “You can grab a brief written by a leading firm that covers the same issues you have in your case, and you can craft your document based on what some of the best attorneys in the business are writing.”

Applying the AWS “working backwards” methodology helped LexisNexis identify Brief Analysis’s core strengths, requirements, and resource gaps from the beginning. This experience improved project alignment and enabled LexisNexis to solve critical issues upfront, streamlining development. “Our whole product team benefited from using AWS,” says Christman. “Learning about the AWS innovation process upfront was tremendously valuable.”

LexisNexis Legal & Professional is a global provider of legal, regulatory, and business information and analytics that helps customers increase productivity, improve decision-making and outcomes, and advance the rule of law around the world.

Benefits of AWS

  • Received positive feedback from 89% of early users
  • Runs metadata on over 27 million pieces of legal content
  • Reduces manual legal research time
  • Uses artificial intelligence to provide recommendations and strengthen briefs
  • Canvases entire knowledge graph in 11 seconds

AWS Services Used

Amazon Elasticsearch Services

Amazon Elasticsearch Service is a fully managed service that makes it easy for you to deploy, secure, and run Elasticsearch cost effectively at scale. You can build, monitor, and troubleshoot your applications using the tools you love, at the scale you need.

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Amazon Neptune

Amazon Neptune is a fast, reliable, fully managed graph database service that makes it easy to build and run applications that work with highly connected datasets. The core of Amazon Neptune is a purpose-built, high-performance graph database engine optimized for storing billions of relationships and querying the graph with milliseconds latency.

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To learn more, visit aws.amazon.com/elasticsearch-service.