Judicata does the right thing in search: instead of searching by keywords through cases, it organizes cases by legal doctrine and relevant facts and detects those doctrines and facts in cases algorithmically. The promise of Judicata is to take input like “I want cases about the enforceability of no-oral-modifications clauses in Texas” and return just the cases that address this issue. And, since these cases are compiled algorithmically, you could see just those cases on just that issue in the court or before the judge where your case is pending.
Think of Judicata as bridging the gap between treatises or PLC and Westlaw. Or think of it as annotations to a doctrinal treatise updated automatically with cases from everywhere. As Judicata extends its substantive coverage, you will be able to browse through, say, contract doctrines (in Texas, in Houston, as applied in insurance cases, etc.) and drill down from doctrine to primary law. There are two keys to making this work: (1) technology to algorithmically sort cases into these categories; and (2) domain knowledge to construct the categories.
With its new funding, Judicata’s challenge is primarily the second; to grow its domain knowledge from California employment law to the law more generally. I’ve seen some of Judicata’s preliminary demos and have swapped email with cofounder Blake Masters, but I eagerly await the opportunity to get my hands on Judicata’s first release. Its success or failure will turn on whether its categorization algorithms and process really work — i.e., whether it finds the right doctrinal categories and whether it sorts cases into them comprehensively and correctly. (This in turn will depend on building an organization that is as much a legal company as it is an engineering one.)
Legal search is a tough place to start: Westlaw’s moat of content insulates it from replacement; 80% coverage or 80% correct is worthless to lawyers (at least at the top of the market); legal search is not perfect, but most lawyers don’t regard it as broken (cf. eDiscovery, where all lawyers think it’s awful); and selling into law firms and legal departments is difficult, specialized enterprise sales (a function we at Disco have outsourced to our channel partners, who we hope will also serve as distributors for our future legal technology offerings). But Judicata has made a good start at making this strategy work.
Investment in legal startups across the full spectrum of legal technology is good: it reflects the growing consensus that there is an opportunity right now to change what great lawyers can do by arming with them modern process and technology.
Congratulations to Judicata!