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Automation and the future of legal tech

Before it became a news source, or a legal database, or a Twitter presence often mistaken for the court itself, SCOTUSblog was a tool. It was created to give the public a way to access and understand, in real time, how the work of the justices affects their daily lives. Over the years, the blog has evolved significantly, but its usefulness as a resource for information about the Supreme Court remains fundamental.

Technology has always driven our mission. Ever since Amy Howe and I founded SCOTUSblog 18 years ago, lawyers and lay readers have been able to turn to the blog for links to briefs in merits cases and petitions, an option that was particularly useful before the court established an electronic docketing system three years ago. Our case pages still include not only all the filings in every case and every significant cert petition, color-coded to be easily identifiable, but links to our case coverage. We live blog every opinion day to make the answer to the question, “What did the Supreme Court decide?” easy both to find and understand.

Any tool is only as good as the technology it’s built on. This is why we chose to partner with Casetext, the leading legal research database and a true technological pioneer. Just as SCOTUSblog is an essential resource for those who follow the court closely, Casetext’s latest tool – Compose – promises to be indispensable for all our readers who litigate for a living, and to usher in a new era in legal briefing.

Compose is litigation automation technology that enables an attorney to prepare a well-supported first draft of a brief in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take. The attorney picks the type of brief that he or she needs to write and the jurisdiction in which the brief will be filed, and Compose provides a list of arguments and relevant legal standards. The attorney can then build a scaffolding of the brief by simply pointing and clicking. It is the smoothest brief-drafting experience I have encountered.

The real strength of Compose, though, lies in its newest – and most technologically advanced – feature, Parallel Search. Parallel Search allows attorneys to discover relevant caselaw in seconds, without leaving the drafting process, by entering a plain English sentence related to the legal standard they are looking for. Under the hood, Parallel Search leverages the latest natural language processing methods, including the most robust concept map of the English language ever assembled, and applies them to the law.

While drafting in Compose, litigators can also search the docket in a related case. Simply type in a case number and Compose will pull an updated docket from PACER. You’ll be able to refer to it as you draft, and even add one-click citations – all this, again, without leaving your draft.

These features will soon be integrated with another indispensable tool, Microsoft Word. Docket search and other features are currently available in Word via the new Compose add-on, and the full functionality will appear in coming iterations of the software.

Of course, Compose cannot supplant good lawyering, and it isn’t intended to. Rather, Compose offers a savvy litigator a streamlined process of arriving at a workable first draft. The attorney can take it from there. 

I know that the readers of this blog include litigators working at all levels of the court system who are interested in the Supreme Court. For those of you who do this work, my hope is that Compose can elevate your practice, just as I believe that our continued partnership with Casetext will bolster the ability of all our readers, lawyers and nonlawyers alike, to access and understand the law.

Recommended Citation: Tom Goldstein, Automation and the future of legal tech, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 24, 2020, 12:44 PM),