If you want to get a customer addicted, you’ve got to start doling out free samples. That’s what Costco does and the next thing you know, you’ve got a steel drum of Nutella. It’s also how legal research tools secure market share among the next generation of rising attorneys, giving students unlimited access to the search engines that firms will someday pay top dollar to license so associates don’t have to learn a new, mildly different cite-checking system.
Or at least that’s how the research wars traditionally played out. Even before the latest advances in generative AI, the major research platforms built increasingly complex systems to better scour the accumulated universe of precedent that will eventually be ignored in favor of a cherry-picked quote from some 16th century pamphleteer. But generative AI promises no less than to rewire the way the whole world asks questions and legal research tools have invested substantial resources in building truly differentiating search technology to deliver better results for this new approach to queries. The same way Google changed the way attorneys researched, requiring major advancements in natural language search, ChatGPT will transform how attorneys want to interface with their research tools.
Lawyers are already turning to generative AI to provide better legal answers — entirely to their detriment — and that’s only going to become more pronounced as generations grow up expecting to converse with their search tools.
To continue the free sample analogy, consider ChatGPT legal research the product cut with dangerous additives and the subscription tools from the major platforms the pure cut Columbian shit.
Of course I’m talking about coffee.
And like the good coffee, it costs more to get a key of the gen AI-enhanced versions of these research tools, making the impending research wars more high stakes than ever.
This morning, Lexis announced that it would begin rolling out access to its top-level AI capabilities to the nation’s nearly 100K law students following a pilot program with select educational customers.
“We’re delighted to have the opportunity to work closely with valued customers to introduce our effective, accurate, and secure generative AI tools into the law school curriculum,” said Sean Fitzpatrick, CEO of LexisNexis North America, UK and Ireland. “It’s a win-win that helps the next generation of lawyers prepare to practice by honing their skills using Lexis+ AI. At the same time, law school faculty and student feedback is critically important to the continued development of the solution.”
If nothing else, this will keep law students from citing Varghese v. China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd., 925 F.3d 1339 (11th Cir. 2019) in the short term.
When I went to law school, NYU still forced my class to learn how to Shepardize from books. Did it make me a better researcher? Absolutely not. On the other hand, I learned how to conduct online research through policy debate by typing boolean queries into Lexis as an undergrad. Did understanding boolean logic make me better at crafting natural language searches? Certainly. The old ways aren’t always the better ways, but understanding what the algorithm is trying to do makes it a lot easier to craft the right query. And no matter how advanced gen AI gets, it’s still reliant on the questioner not being a complete dolt.
Legal education will grapple with teaching prospective lawyers how to best prompt AI for years to come. They’re getting a head start with Lexis right now.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.