New online search tool developed for legal researchers

Lawrence,KS (04-28-2009)

From University Relations

The Information and Telecommunication Technology Center and the School of Law at the University of Kansas have developed a powerful online search tool for legal researchers. Meta-Legal Searches simultaneously mines various legal databases for cases, statutes and literature citations. The service is open to the public.

Subscription-based databases dominate online legal research. In addition to their prohibitive costs, Michael Hoeflich, the John H. and John M. Kane Distinguished Professor of Law, notes the software requires special training. Hoeflich envisioned a user-friendly "one-stop shop" for legal research and approached ITTC because of its expertise in software development.

"My purpose was to provide a fast, free search capability which would permit not only lawyers, but everyone access to crucial legal documents," Hoeflich said.

"Professor Hoeflich had a great idea, and with ITTC expertise, the technology was developed into a working prototype. As the technology matures, we hope to find a commercial partner to further develop its utility," said Keith Braman, director of technology commercialization for ITTC.

ITTC Lead Software Engineer Danico Lee designed and developed Meta-Legal Searches. Users enter search words from which the engine creates and submits queries to targeted legal databases, she explained. Version 2.0 searches six databases: PreCYdent, which contains U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Court of Appeals cases; PLoL (Public Library of Law), which includes those cases plus cases from all 50 states since 1997 and other law, codes and regulations; kscourts, which searches state cases; Legalbitstream, for its capacity to search both tax cases and Internal Revenue Service rulings; and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings Web site. Meta-Legal Searches then parses and integrates the hits, sorting them in reverse chronological order. For each result, the case name, its date, a synopsis and a link to the relevant citation are given.

In fall 2008, law students in two different classes, Contracts and Professional Responsibility, were asked to use and evaluate Meta-Legal Searches. Lee said students frequently used the metasearch engine, and it received positive comments.

"Meta-Legal Searches helps me find the most influential and authoritative cases on a particular issue," said Brian Jansen, a first-year law student who used the metasearch last fall.

The Information and Telecommunication Technology Center advances knowledge and creates innovative technologies in telecommunications, information systems, bioinformatics and radar. As one of KUs most high-profile research centers, ITTCs resources, affiliated faculty members and state-of-the-art facilities support a variety of multidisciplinary projects. As a KTEC Center of Excellence, ITTC is committed to the continued growth and diversity of the states economy. Under faculty guidance, graduate and undergraduate students in ITTC conduct fundamental research and develop strategic solutions for Kansas companies and national industries.

Hoeflich holds degrees from Haverford College, Cambridge University and Yale Law School. He taught at the University of Illinois from 1980-1988, was dean of the Syracuse University College of Law from 1988-1994 and was dean at the KU School of Law from 1994-2000. Hoeflich is the author or editor of seven books and more than 70 articles. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a member of the American Antiquarian Society and the Kansas Correspondent of the Selden Society.

For more information, contact ITTC.

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Partner with ITTC

The Information and Telecommunication Technology Center at the University of Kansas has developed several assistance policies that enhance interactions between the Center and local, Kansas, or national companies. 

ITTC assistance includes initial free consulting (normally one to five hours). If additional support is needed, ITTC will offer one of the following approaches: 

Sponsored Research Agreement

Individuals and organizations can enter into agreements with KUCR/ITTC and provide funds for sponsored research to be performed at ITTC with the assistance of faculty, staff and students.

Licensing and Royalty/Equity Agreement

An ITTC goal is the development of investment-grade technologies for transfer to, and marketing by, local, Kansas, and national businesses. To enhance this process, the Center has developed flexible policies that allow for licensing, royalty, and equity arrangements to meet both the needs of ITTC and the company.

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Companies with a technology need that can be satisfied with ITTC's resources can look to us for assistance. We can develop a relationship with interested partners that will provide for the development of a technology suited for commercialization.

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ITTC resources, including computers and software systems, may be made available to Kansas companies in accordance with the Center's mission and applicable Regents and University policies.

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