January 18, 2022

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The Legal Tech-To-English Dictionary: Legal Research

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, SEO, Wordpress Support & Insurance, Mortgage, Loans, Legal, Etc BlogsEd. note: This is the latest installment of The Legal Tech-to-English Dictionary, part of our Non-Event for Tech-Perplexed Lawyers. Jared Correia is the host of the Non-Eventcast.

There’s a term for when attorneys use Latin and other arcane languages to describe legal processes to consumers: “legalese.”

But there’s no similar term for when vendors use technical and other arcane languages to describe their legal software operations to lawyers.

True, this dynamic may seem unfair. But now we have The Legal Tech-to-English Dictionary to help us cope.

Read on for the latest installment, where we translate legal research-related topics to plain English.

And for more commentary on legal tech, check out the Non-Event for Tech Perplexed Lawyers.

Boolean Search

  1. A query technique combining keywords or phrases through the use of operators ‘and,’ ‘or’ and ‘not’.
  2.  A search methodology invented by English mathematician George Boole, making modern information technologies possible.
  3. The search option you try before inevitably giving up in favor of natural language search.

Lawyer 1: Hey, Bill, can I use an ‘and’ and an ‘or’ together in Boolean search?

Lawyer 2: Oh, for fuck’s sake, Alan. Just type in real words.

Lawyer 1: Both ‘and’ and ‘or’ are real words.

Lawyer 2: Get the hell out of my office.

Shepardizing

  1. The rigorous training method by which one formally becomes a shepherd.  No, wait . . . Really? Not that? Well, I’ll be damned.
  2. A citation system for determining the subsequent treatment of a legal decision by later cases that reference it.
  3. The process for determining whether a subject case remains ‘good law.’

Lawyer 1: Hey, everybody. I’ll be at the law library if you need me. I have my giant CamelBak water bottle, so I should be good for most of the day.

Lawyer 2: Wait, John! Just use our Westlaw account, and stay here.

Lawyer 1: Oh, Terry. Simple, simple Terry. 

Cf. Frank Shepard, a legal publisher who invented Shepardizing in the late 19th Century by applying sticky annotations to cases, with single-letter codes to show further treatment of the case by later court decisions.

Precedent

  1. A rule established in a prior legal case that directly controls (or is at least persuasive in determining) the decision in the instant case.
  2. A prior reported opinion of an appeals court that establishes a rule of law for future cases.

Cf. The Latin term stare decisis (“to stand by things decided”) is the process by which a lower court applies precedent to a case before it.

Research Trail

  1. Generally speaking, an explanation of how a stated position has been sourced.
  2. In legal research, the research history for a particular search session.
  3. In legal research software, the clickable files that open research history for archived sessions.

Lawyer 1: Wait, you’re doing it wrong. You don’t rest the keyboard on the research book. You *open* the research book. Here, like this.

Lawyer 2:  Um, thanks.

Lawyer 1: No problem

Lawyer 1: See you at lunch. We’re going to Chuck E. Cheese!

Lawyer 2: Great.

Lawyer 2: (silently closes book)

Cf. It’s a hell of a hike.

Secondary Sources

  1. Various types of (usually print) materials that summarize, review and/or analyze the law.

Lawyer 1: But, what about the tertiary sources, Melvin.

Lawyer 1: What about the tertiary sources!

Cf. ‘Primary’ sources are ‘the law,’ including caselaw, statutes and regulations.

Cf. Online fan communities, like those for the ‘Star Wars’ universe.


Jared Correia, a consultant and legal technology expert, is the host of the Non-Eventcast, the featured podcast of the Above the Law Non-Event for Tech-Perplexed Lawyers. 

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