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December 9, 2012 / carlispina

Ravel – A New Way to Research Cases

Ravel LogoRavel, a new startup, was created this year at Stanford by two 2012 Stanford Law graduates. It aims to change the way that people conduct legal research and visualize connections between cases. It is specifically focused on helping users to see how cases are connected to one another and to collaborate with other legal researchers.

Once signed in, you are are presented with a Google-style page with a search box in the center. You can search for cases by party name, case number or keyword. For a more advanced search, you also have the option to limit your search to a select court or courts or to a specific date range. The case database is currently limited to Supreme Court and federal court cases ranging from 1754 to 2012, but according to their website they “are aggressively expanding the coverage of our case opinion database” so more cases will likely be added in the near future. The cases that are returned cannot currently be sorted, but the search feature does a good job of returning relevant cases, which makes this less of an issue. In addition to displaying the list of relevant cases on the left side of the screen, Ravel also shows a visualization of the connections between these cases on the right side of the page. In addition to showing citations between cases as connecting lines, the visualization also gives a sense of the number of times a particular case has been cited by the size of the circle used to represent it. The circles are color coded with green circles representing those that have been cited most recently, yellow circles representing cases that have not been cited as recently and red circles representing others that have not been cited in at least 20 years. You can toggle between several views to see different visualizations, including viewing cases on a timeline, sorted by court or clustered.

Clicking on any of these circles will take you to the full text of the case, together with any public annotations that have been added to it. You can also highlight sections of the case, add your own annotations and then add these annotations to one of your caseboards. These caseboards can be shared with other users to foster collaboration or can be exported to Word so that you can use your annotations elsewhere. Ravel is currently in closed beta, but users with academic email addresses ending in .edu are immediately approved for free accounts. It still has some limitations, particularly because it does not yet include the full range of cases for all jurisdictions, but it is well worth trying out.

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