By Ivan Mokanov, Executive Director
It sounds like a silly question, right? First you wanted to know something, you transformed that question into a research statement; you were looking for something, you found it, you have your answer, you act accordingly, period, you move on to your next task. Not really, actually, at least in the sphere of professional research, such as legal research. After you discover your legal gem, a whole new process unfolds: you preserve your finding (print, store, save), you link it to the specific portion of your practice to which it is relevant (you put the print-out in a client/matter folder), you add your personal layer of knowledge on top (you scribble something in the margin), you update your research (before you meet your client again or before taking the matter to court). With all this in mind we developed Lexbox – to help you manage better your legal research results.
What does Lexbox do?
A few simple things – it enables you to save your legal finds, organize them, take notes, get alerts. Lexbox allows you to save cases, legislation, web pages or research statements as such. You can store the saved items in folders, e.g. Air Canada / Collective Agreement 2015-2018. You can generate lists of authorities from your folders’ content. You can also take notes to contextualize the saved results in order to explain or remember why they are relevant to your case. You can consult your research history. Finally, you can set up alerts to get notifications. You want to know if a new result meets your search criteria? Or when a new case cites the case that you saved? Or when the regulation that applies to this matter gets amended? That kind of stuff.
But other services also provide this functionality – how is this so innovative and blog-worthy?
The problem of managing search results is not new and many legal research tools offer capabilities to help you cope with that. WestlawNext has a neat way of allowing you to set up alerts, FastCase enables you to organize your documents in folders, Google Scholar offers what they call a “library”, which is pretty much the same thing: a sandbox for a selection of your results. Most products have their own feature and all of them boil down to the same thing – allowing you to personalize your research experience.
How is Lexbox different?
Of course we are proud with the UI and features, but we believe that the truly innovative part lies in Lexbox’s concept and approach. Two things are worth mentioning.
Lexbox is not a single website’s feature – it has been designed to works on many websites. When it comes to supported websites, at least initially, our focus has been on free law since this is where the predominant part of legal research happens these days. Naturally, we started with CanLII. First, because it is the “elephant in the room” – the largest and, to my unbiased* opinion, the best legal research website in Canada. Second, and more important actually, because of its accessibility through APIs which makes a developer’s work easier. Lexbox also supports Lexum’s SCC decisions website. Next (in a couple of weeks) in the pipeline are the Federal Courts’ and the Tax Court’s decisions websites, e-Laws, BCLaws and the Federal Legislation website. After (in a month or so) we will add two other heavyweights from the legal research arena: Québec’s CAIJ and LegisInfo. And then maybe a commercial service, who knows…
The technical approach
We chose to deliver Lexbox’s cross-platform functionality through a plug-in, or an “extension” (to use the precise Google Chrome vocabulary) that can be installed in one click. The main design premise was for Lexbox to be always there, yet not stand in the way of your legal research process. The extension allows you to work with Lexbox without having to leave your environment – CanLII, SCC, e-Laws – wherever your process may have lead you. Lexbox offers you a web workspace where your stuff sits but every functionality is also available through the extension – saving, creating folders, browsing, retrieving past queries, setting alters – therefore it is always one click away.
So, Lexbox is there, it is free and we are excited to learn what you think about it and how we can make it even better.
(Ivan Mokanov is Executive Director of Lexum, a technology and service provider for the CanLII website)