Freemium US legal research platform Casetext has announced a new partnership with AmLaw 100 firm O’Melveny & Myers (OMM), which joins a growing roster of firms including Quinn Emanuel, Fenwick & West, DLA Piper, Baker Donelson and Ogletree Deakins to have adopted Casetext’s AI-backed legal research tool CARA AI. We caught up in March with Casetext’s founder and CEO Jake Heller (pictured), who says the 2013-founded company will shortly unveil a major product upgrade that will put it on a par with incumbent legal research leaders LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters Westlaw, as it pushes hard to develop its paid-for technology offering.

Casetext, which caused ripples at Legalweek New York in January for its AI ‘robot-off’ with ROSS Intelligence, doesn’t charge users to search its case law, legal brief and statute platform, only those who want to use the CARA research suite, which it launched in 2016 and now has around 300 law firm subscribers.

Heller said: “I would say from the beginning to this day what we’re about is helping attorneys to find the information they need faster and information they won’t find on other sites.

“Right now, people log into Casetext and either start by searching as you would on the likes of Google or LexisNexis but you can also start with a drag and drop upload of documents. It may sound sad but the way of thinking about it is that the machine can understand your context because we’ve fed it dozens of citations to legal authorities and the facts and the legal issues and the jurisdiction to your case.  Based on that it can take millions of statutes and briefs and rank them in order of importance to you.

“What we’re seeing that’s really powerful is that we designed CARA at first to be the most effective way to check your own brief or opposing counsel’s to see if you’ve left anything out, but what excites us is that CARA is the best way to search the law period. If you’re working on a very specific patent case and you’re looking for previous damages, it will instantly come up.”

Casetext, which is free for anyone at law school, is being deliberately transparent about what it charges and Heller says: “You can sign up with a credit card and it costs $139 per month ad hoc and around $129 per month on an annual basis.

“Smaller law firms that don’t want to engage with a sales person just buy it for themselves but for bigger firms we come up with a sum that makes sense for both of us.”

O’Melveny becomes one of around 15 AmLaw Casetext clients, representing around 10,000 litigation attorneys.

Casetext has around 250 smaller law firm clients, totalling around 650 lawyers. Heller said: “I love that segment of the market because for smaller firms, being more efficient might make the difference between them being able to take on two clients this month and three next month.”

Casetext regularly has around 500,000 people on the site, with much of its traffic coming though Google.

Heller said: “Ours is a technology company and we say the law should be free: we collect all of the information in a way that doesn’t require us to spend billions of dollars. For people without the resources to spend hundreds of dollars we feel proud we’re democratising the law and we only charge the people who want to be more efficient and want to have a competitive advantage. Because we’re charging for the technology, it has to be so much better than free.”

Nonetheless, the AI-backed research market is providing its own competitive challenges and at Legalweek New York, ROSS Intelligence unveiled EVA, which analyses briefs and finds cases for free.

Heller said: “ROSS EVA reads briefs and finds cases that you know about and tells you whether they have been overturned – something that’s been offered by Lexis and Westlaw since the 90s. It’s a very big deal that ROSS has made that free – they have a version of a database called Shepard which is hard to build, and it’s cool they are making that free but it’s so different from CARA.

“What CARA is doing is reading and understanding the facts, the legal issues, the citations and jurisdiction and doing original research for you that you don’t already know about.

“The next step is that we want to win the hearts and minds of every attorney in America, so even if you use Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis, you use Casetext. We believe that’s the path to widespread adoption. We’re not asking firms to replace those providers overnight, but our mission is to win over the users. We are heads down right now working on a major announcement for an upgrade that will put us in a position to be more competitive with the incumbents.”

Casetext was recently recognized by CB Insights as one of the most promising artificial intelligence companies of 2018 and the only legal research company to make the list. We’ll bring you news of the upgrade as it breaks.