PreCYdent, a start-up based in San Diego and Milan, Italy announced today that it has created a new legal research technology that is many times more effective at finding relevant case law than the decades-old Westlaw and LexisNexis. The search engine's alpha version is available at http://www.precydent.com/ and is free to users. (Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080303/LAM012LOGO)
"Our technology mines the information in legal citations," said co-founder and CEO Tom Smith, who is a professor at the University of San Diego Law School. "It makes searching for law as easy as searching the Web, which means anyone can do it."The search algorithm was created by the PreCYdent team, led by Antonio Tomarchio, a mathematician from the Politecnico di Milano, Italy's most prestigious technical university. Politecnico professors Piero Fraternali and Stefano Ceri are the company's scientific advisors. "By adapting web-style mathematical measures to the legal citation network, we can identify the most authoritative legal cases in any area," Tomarchio said. "According to our tests, our search engine is four to five times more effective than both Westlaw and LexisNexis natural language engines in identifying relevant cases." Smith said the PreCYdent algorithm has been tested against Westlaw and LexisNexis by examining each engine's predictions of what citations would occur in over 200 articles, notes and comments written by legal experts. "One patent law expert said our search quality was so good it was 'astounding,'" Smith said.
The PreCYdent website has a number of Web 2.0 features. Users may comment on cases and rank their importance. Lawyers can upload documents to help potential clients find them and identify their expertise.PreCYdent is free. "We have all U.S. Supreme Court cases, U.S. Court of Appeals cases to 1950, and recent Supreme Court cases of large states such as New York, Florida, Illinois and California. We will have all 50 states soon," said Smith. "Our technology can be extended to other legal systems. We plan to cover the UK, Canada, Australia, India and other common law countries," Smith said."PreCYdent technology can be extended to other verticals," Tomarchio said, "such as bio-medical databases, e-discovery, e-commerce and online advertising. The algorithm is very fast and scalable."