The goal of legal research is to find an answer to your question, not to read cases

December 13th, 2011

I think a major failure of legal research today is that no matter what you search, or how you search, ultimately, you will be given a bunch of cases, maybe with some words highlighted. These search services simply locate precedents that may be relevant. They don’t answer your question.

I should be able to ask a question, and I should receive a custom generated answer that provides the majority (and minority) opinion on point. Rather than giving me a list of cases, the computer should assemble what is effectively an on-demand-treatise, with footnotes to the precedents if I wish to read more.

In short, I want the answer to my question, not a bunch of cases where the answer may (or may not, who knows?) exist.

I can imagine holding a legal-research competition in the future between Harlan and its competitors. Give some students a question, and see how long it takes to put together a memo exploring the legal issue. It would be like Watson on Jeopardy.