Keywords have been a mainstay in legal research for years, but a big shift in search tools is taking place. Massive amounts of information and the increasing number of locations where that data can be stored is forcing law firms to rethink how to perform searches Many firms are transitioning to intelligent search for the new advantages it provides: searching multiple systems simultaneously, discovering insights that keyword searches can’t offer, and allowing faster and more efficient searches.
Law firms that move to intelligent search have a competitive advantage over those that don’t. They can streamline research and perform more in-depth document searches with fewer people. Legal teams need faster and more efficient search capabilities to stay in the game. For law firms that haven’t made the switch, the time to move to intelligent search for legal research is now.
Overcoming Legal Research Inefficiency
Law firms collect and work with massive amounts of information stored on multiple systems. Research typically involves individual searches on each of these siloed systems—a painfully inefficient process. Legal teams then look for relationships in their search results, and they still may not uncover the insights they need.
The scope of searches can also be impractical and ineffective. Teams may need to search thousands of documents that aren’t in a single database. Search results usually include lists of documents and require teams to sift through each for relevant information. Despite the enormous amount of time devoted to this task, the volume of data is simply too great for teams to know with confidence that they found all the information they need, and that it's compiled in a way that's most useful for the case.
Intelligent search overcomes these issues by unifying legal team research efforts and saving countless hours of time that could be dedicated to billable hours. Instead of repetitively keying search terms into multiple siloed databases, legal teams can quickly perform a single search that scans through the available sources, finds all relevant information, and presents the results in a meaningful way much faster.Intelligent search is not only faster because users can review multiple searches at once, but the AI powered by NLP, machine learning, and LLMs delivers more relevant search results than individual searches, In short, users spend less time searching because the search functionality is doing a better job at figuring out what users are looking for Since intelligent search leverages artificial intelligence, it can help uncover the insights law firms need to build stronger legal cases too.
The UK-based law firm Travers Smith experienced frustrating research efficiency issues before adopting an intelligent search platform. "It was like looking for a needle in a haystack," said Rachel Woodburn, head of professional support. Now their legal teams can easily search across all their databases to find what they need.
Making Research More Natural
Keyword searches may be familiar, but they aren't as effective as real questions for getting substantial results. Intelligent search enables legal teams to create natural language queries (NLQs) as if they were asking an actual person a question.
NLQs have the advantage of being an already familiar process since that's how web searches work. And they go beyond the limitations of keyword searches because queries are crafted by the people who have context for the research. That allows for a level of nuance keywords can't offer.
Intelligent search also can uncover institutional knowledge. Knowing which attorney in the firm has experience with a particular topic, or most recently handled a similar case, can be invaluable for preparing a brief or other legal document. Instead of sending a company-wide email, intelligent search saves time by quickly revealing which firm member to contact —something a keyword search can’t do.
Moving beyond keyword-based research requires a software solution capable of searching all the law firm's data sources while being user friendly and presenting accurate, relevant results. Upland BA Insight is an excellent example. It enhances legal team efforts by offering an approachable user interface, natural language understanding (NLU), type ahead for auto-filling fields, and the ability to search across different services and databases.
For meaningful search results, BA Insight consolidates, highlights and sorts what it finds instead of returning a list of documents requiring further searches. No longer needing to search each document in the list means drastic savings in resources and time.
Finding the Intelligent Search Advantage
Despite the growing need for better and more efficient search options, 65% of law firms aren't using intelligent search when researching with siloed information. That puts them at a disadvantage against law firms that do since they can’t work as fast, process as much information, or gain the same deep insights based on their research.
"Right now, our people are more efficient because the technology is saving them time," Woodburn added. "We have definitive thumbs up from associates who can find information they need that much faster, and even locate things they just couldn't find at all before."
Embracing Intelligent Search
Searching individual data sources with keywords was useful when that was the only option, but that's breaking down with the complexity in today's information sources. The vast amounts of data are becoming increasingly more expensive and time consuming for legal research, often calling for more people for a single case — a number that can easily climb into the hundreds.
Law firms need faster, more efficient tools that provide nuanced search options while eliminating the need for repetitive queries—just like intelligent search offers. Those that are on board now are already seeing the advantages because they can find, compile, and present more complete research faster and with higher efficiency. Those that aren’t will have an increasingly difficult time staying competitive, which makes this the perfect time to embrace intelligent search.