There is a lot of hype right now about legal tech start-ups proposing disruptive innovations in the hope of transforming the legal profession, and legal research in particular. Although Lexum probably doesn’t qualify as a start-up anymore, we decided it was time for us to try something out as well. For the last few months we have been experimenting internally with the idea of creating personal workspaces for online legal research: personalized places where you can store legal information according to your own criteria, get updates when new content becomes available and re-run saved queries when needed.
It would feel great to take all the credit, but this idea was actually formulated by practising lawyers. Practitioners repeatedly told us that while online databases have dramatically improved the way they conduct their legal research, they now feel disorganized in this regard. The fruits of their research are scattered on shared drives and desktop folders, some are printed so that notes can be penned on them, and others are stored on commercial publishers’ websites. Completed searches invariably need to be started again from scratch in order to keep them updated, and using existing current awareness services to keep up with changes affecting clients proves almost impossible considering the sheer volume of noise they generate.
Now, Lexbox enters the ring. I should probably clarify that it is getting into the competition at the qualification round, not for the championship final… Lexbox is still an early experiment in personalizing online legal research. Put simply, Lexbox is a workspace for getting your online legal research organized. Lexbox remembers where the legal material which is relevant to you is located, and helps you keep it up to date. It doesn’t replace your preferred legal research websites: it complements them.
At this stage Lexbox primarily allows legal researchers to save queries, case law, legislation and web pages into folders and create custom alerts based on this content. The concept of sending notifications only for what matters to the user is central. Alerts can be set up whenever:
- New search results are found for a specific legal research query,
- A new citation is detected,
- A new version of a document becomes available.
Alerts can be sent by email or consulted within Lexbox. In the same vein, Lexbox provides users with a sense of the volume of notifications to be expected before setting up an alert. You get control over what is being pushed to you, and what is not.
What is probably the most innovative aspect of Lexbox is that it enables you to get organized without even visiting the Lexbox website. Much of the interaction with Lexbox is conducted via a browser extension (plugin) that integrates Lexbox’s features directly into supported websites. You can log in, saves queries or documents, create alerts, and email documents with Lexbox straight from the legal information website you are visiting. You can also quickly bookmark any web page in Lexbox by clicking on the icon added to your browser URL bar.
Everyone at Lexum is very excited about the potential of Lexbox and we hope that the legal community will share our enthusiasm. This said, Lexbox’s development is still in an exploratory phase. For the moment, the Lexbox extension is available only for the Google Chrome web browser. In addition, only the CanLII website is fully supported at the date of writing. You can safely bet that we will support additional browsers and websites in the near future. We are even working on integrating Lexbox with practice management solutions. In the meantime we have decided to open up this early version to validate our assumptions and benefit from your feedback as soon as possible. Lexbox’s development has been driven by the needs of legal researchers right from the start and it will remain that way. From this perspective, I invite you to try Lexbox out and let us know what you think about it, whether your impressions are positive or negative. If Lexbox is not yet ready for the championship final, we are definitely preparing for it.