Have you ever needed to learn the basics of a new area of law hours before a meeting? Ever needed to draft a new type of document on a tight deadline?
Powered by machine learning and drawing from LexisNexis’ huge network of libraries and databases, Lexis Answers is built for conducting quick, high-level legal research with results designed to give users a thorough grasp of whatever question or challenge they might face.
Above the Law recently spoke with LexisNexis Product Manager Jake Nelson to learn more about Lexis Answers and how attorneys can make the most of the tool. Read on to discover what Lexis Answers can do for you.
Super-Charged Search for the Legal World
Lexis Answers is a search engine built for the thorough, diligent attorney, returning results drawn only from thoroughly-vetted, high-quality case law, commentary, and other legal documents from the vast system of libraries and databases available through Lexis+.
Harnessing the latest machine learning technology available from LexisNexis, this tool is one of the best in the legal tech company’s arsenal for cutting down the time it takes to conduct high-level legal research.
“When we’re working on these features, we have one thing in mind: how we can reduce the time to that idea of completeness, that you’ve covered your bases,” Nelson says.
A Search Bar That Speaks Your Language
Thanks to advances in search technology and machine learning, Lexis Answers doesn’t just run a search for the exact terms you’ve used. Instead, it “not only recognizes direct matches and synonyms but also the underlying meaning and intent of your query,” Nelson says.
This ability to understand and build on search terms means users can skip the process of formulating a perfect search query.
Instead, they can jump directly into the research process with a simple phrase like “elements of a valid contract” with the confidence that the results will be relevant and useful.
“We see a lot of users submitting a broader query to trigger [Lexis] Answers, and oftentimes they’re engaging by just copying text from the Lexis Answers card and then quickly moving on to the next search task,” Nelson says.
For frequent Lexis+ users, some of what Lexis Answers has to offer might sound familiar. After all, according to Nelson, the machine learning technology that serves as the backbone of Lexis Answers is also used in fourteen other Lexis+ features either currently in production or scheduled to release in the first half of 2023, all geared towards making legal research quicker and easier.
Your Questions Answered, Before You Ask
Lexis Answers doesn’t keep its understanding of the intent of your query to itself. Instead, it offers a series of potential alternative searches through the Recommended Questions feature.
Recommended Questions helps researchers find what they need even if they’re not sure how to ask. This can be especially useful for researchers investigating a question or matter in an unfamiliar area of the law.
“When you’re at the beginning of a legal research project, it’s oftentimes hard to know what to ask for or where to start,” Nelson says. “When users have struggles formulating those queries, Recommended Questions help guide that experience.”
Lexis Answers’ ability to understand natural language search queries and offer relevant results and alternative search recommendations based on those queries makes the process of using the search tool intuitive for researchers.
“It’s basically introducing a more conversational workflow,” says Nelson, adding that Lexis Answers is designed to follow the workflow of conducting research in the Internet Age — something most knowledge workers, and lawyers especially, are used to doing.
“This is a very familiar workflow, and that’s part of the reason we added the Recommended Questions feature.”
Get Your Bearings and Dig Deeper
While Lexis Answers is frequently used by researchers looking to get a bird’s-eye-view look at an area of law, the search tool can also make for a great launching point for deeper research thanks to its thorough integration with the rest of Lexis+, Nelson says.
The tabbed search results feature, a user favorite since it was introduced in 2022, invites users to explore the full breadth of Lexis Answers’ results and explore multiple angles during their research before forming a conclusion.
Tabbed results allow researchers to navigate between different types of content — including case law, statutes, secondary materials, and practical guidance — with ease.
Plus, thanks to an integration with the legendary Shepard’s citation checker, researchers can be sure their case law results are good law.
Another great example of how Lexis Answers fits seamlessly into the larger Lexis+ platform is its judge cards, which provide the informational overview Lexis Answers users are looking for while also displaying and linking to useful facts and analysis from Lexis Context.
“It goes back to that integrated ecosystem,” Nelson says.