Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ranking Cases by Authority

Tom Smith (San Diego) writes regarding the new search engine he has been developing; he explains:

It is the link to the new legal search engine created by PreCYdent, a startup I and Antonio Tomarchio, a mathematical engineer from the Politecnico di Milano, founded.  Most of our engineers are grad students or recent grads of the Politecnico and two prominent computer
scientists from there are our scientific advisors.

You may be interested in how we can rank cases by authority.  This involves something far more sophisticated than mere citation count.  We use math analogous to what Google uses to rank web sites, but adapted to the peculiar features of the legal citation network.  When
we add law review articles to our database, we will be able to provide a far more accurate rating of the authority of law review articles than is presently available.

The authority ranking also does a much better job (according to our tests) than Westlaw natural language in recalling authoritative cases in response particular queries.  This makes it easier to use.

The site is free and that is an important principle to us.  We believe anybody should be able to access public domain legal materials without paying a fee, and find what they are looking for -- that's what the search technology is for.

This is just the alpha site.  There are plenty of rough spots.  There is a feedback button on the upper right of the results pages, so users can tell us what works and what doesn't.

Professor Smith is interviewed by Joe Hodnicki here about the new site, which will no doubt be of interest to lawyers and legal scholars.

http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2008/02/ranking-cases-b.html

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