Doing Legal Research with Harlan

November 8th, 2011

I previously blogged about Harlan, a Siri-like litigation assistance tool that I hope to develop in the future. A few more thoughts based on this article discussing how Siri poses a legitimate threat to Google.

This is because Siri transforms computers from “passive” participants in the search process to “active” ones and in so doing urinates all over Google’s model. Instead of taking queries and then passively spitting out 10 blue links—which you then have to mine for the correct information—Siri actively goes and gets the correct information, herself. If you don’t give Siri the input she needs, she’ll ask you directed questions until you do. If the goal of your search is a specific action (like buying a movie ticket, reserving a table or calling a taxi), Siri can skip all the steps Googling would require and just do it.  At least that is the idea.  Siri is still quite limited in what it can do, but the writing is on the wall.

When a technology comes along that eliminates the need to follow previously-required processes, we call it disruptive. There’s no other way to slice it.

The Westlaw/Lexis model is like Google (just not quite as good). Even WestLaw next is passive. The user has to enter in a series of search terms, and know where to search to find the right answer.

I see Harlan as a product that leads the user through the legal wilderness. Knowing nothing more than a few facts about the case, Harlan could ask a series of question, and rather than just spitting out lots of cases the user would have to read, it would narrow and winnow through the law, and find just what the person needs.

This would be a disruptive technology.

I just got a draft of Larry Ribstein’s new article, which I will be reading shortly. It looks like another winner.