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The Point is Bloomberg Law “Points of Law”

Judith Kaul  /  Thursday, January 10, 2019  /  Categories: Just in Case, Databases and Subscription Resources, Legal Research Tips, New Tools and Databases  /  Rate this article:
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It seems like every legal research platform is undertaking at least one A.I. or data visualization project. Bloomberg Law has both in its product “Points of Law,” a winner of the American Association of Law Libraries 2018 New Product Award. 

 The Points of Law tool analyzes court opinions through artificial intelligence technologies, which identifies major legal statements that were used by multiple courts.  Users can then organize results by a case’s most cited points of law and link to all cases that reference those same points of law.  The theory is that this tool shortens the amount of time devoted to the research process while yielding the most important results. It seems like this function does the job of a citator but in a more textual way. And I am not at the point where I would say you could use it in lieu of a citator.  

How it works:

While in a court opinion on Bloomberg Law, click on the Points of Law icon located on the right “rail” (frame) of the opinion. You can opt to click on the Citation Map to see an “at-a-glance” graphical view. This visually shows the leading case and subsequent citing cases over a period of time.

 A sample:  I found a great example that dramatically demonstrates the features of this tool in Gottschalk v. Benson, 409 U.S. 63, 93 S. Ct. 253, 34 L. Ed. 2d  273, 175 U.S.P.Q. 673 (1972):  Phenomena of nature, though just discovered, mental processes, and abstract intellectual concepts are not patentable, as they are the basic tools of scientific and technological work.

The system then lists “Related Points of Law” “Courts that have expressed this point of law have also expressed these points.”

Then goes on to list  additional points of law.

Each additional point of law indicates how many court opinions have also listed that point.  You can click on any one to "balloon" to explore that point further. For example,

“[Item] 25. The Supreme Court has long held that this provision contains an important implicit exception: “Laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable."              Found in 266 Court Opinions

When clicked on, the link goes to the list of the 266 opinions displayed with the phrase “Laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable” key words in context of each citing opinion.  In this display you get filter options by the jurisdictions on the right frame.  You also get the option to narrow by any date or date ranges in a pull down menu.  

 The Point of Law Citation Map clearly delineates Federal vs. State cases citing the point of law, as well as an indication of how often each citing case is subsequently cited. Each citation map provides a Legend pull-down menu specifying jurisdiction level. The size of the circle applied to a case indicates how often that case is cited by other cases for this point of law. Larger circles mean more often cited, smaller circles equal less often cited.

Any unnumbered circle “represents a case that is not part of the current set of results but is cited by one or more cases in the overall results set.

The graphical element exhibits the virtue of this tool. I tried to isolate this point of law using citators and wasn’t quite able to zero in on citing cases for the exact point of law I chose in my “Points of Law” sample.  I am just beginning to explore this function and will try comparing to other legal research platform experiences. I highly value this tool and believe it will increase my use of Bloomberg Law.



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