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September/October 2019

Product Watch

A Case Citator with Features Litigators Want and Need

Daniel J. Siegel

One of the many reasons for my attending TECHSHOW is to roam through the Exposition Hall to discover new tools that make my professional life easier. While perusing all the vendors this year, I happened upon a booth at the back corner of the hall touting a product called ezBriefs, part of a package by Benchly. I was intrigued, and stopped by, and took a test drive of the product, which allowed me to upload a brief or other legal document and quickly find, view and print cases cited in the document.

It worked, so I obtained a login and began to use the tool when I returned to my office. In short, this tool has saved me a lot of time, and it helps in other ways I never thought about. Benchly is a secure web-based service that allows users to upload documents such as a brief or motion and verify if all the citations are correct. Even better, it will compile all the cases cited in the document, combine them into one PDF and then let me download them to my computer. Plus the site uses artificial intelligence to determine if there are additional relevant cases or if an authority has been overruled.

As a litigator with a heavy appellate caseload, my first priority was finding a product that quickly compiled and allowed me to read every case cited in my brief and my opposing counsel’s brief so that I could prepare for oral argument. In the past this meant a law clerk, an associate or I would have to log in to Lexis or Westlaw, search for each case cited and then download it, repeating the process for each case or citation. Not anymore. Benchly does that for me.

Making Lawyers' Lives Easier

Benchly is simple to use. After logging in, you arrive at the Dashboard, which displays the ezBriefs tool in the left column and a legal research tool in the right column. Below these tools are a list of recently uploaded documents, recent matters you have worked on, recently saved searches you have performed and notifications.

If you are using Benchly’s ezBriefs tool, which is my favorite part of the site, just click on Upload Brief, which takes you to the Brief Details page. You then select whether the document applies to an existing matter, which you can select from a dropdown menu, or you can create a new matter. Next select whether the document is Internal Work Product or Other’s Work Product. From there you will browse your computer and select the file you want to analyze.

You then select Next and choose from among the available purchase options. The next screen displays your payment options, then you click Next and arrive at the Order Confirmation window to display the amount of your order. After selecting Place Order, you will be automatically taken to the Summary screen, where (if necessary) your file will be converted to PDF format, including hyperlinks to all the cited cases. To view the file, you select View PDF.

The program then displays two columns. On the left is the Brief, with various headings. On the right is the Brief Report Card. The left column’s headings—View Improperly Cited, Download Brief, Batch Print and Export Citations, Add Hyperlinks, and Case View—provide the options I use most. The Brief Report Card lists the number of cited authorities identified in the Brief and tells the user how many citations it recognized and linked, how many potential citations require verification, how many citations were identified but not found, and it shows the citations with potential results.

I typically begin by selecting Begin Resolving in the right column. The Resolver tool then explains why it listed the specific citation and provides potential other matches or corrections. You can then select from among the potential matches found, ignore and remove the results, add a different selection, upload the document and use it based on your copy or search the Benchly database to locate and link the correct reply.

From there, you can choose Begin Review. I generally start with View Improperly Cited, which displays citations that the program believes are improperly cited. You can also download the Brief or Batch Print all or some of the cases and other sources cited—in reality, it means create a file that combines all of the cases into one document. For an appellate lawyer, or for anyone who needs to view the compiled cases, this feature alone makes Benchly worth its cost because it saves potentially hours of work.

The site can print the documents in either one- or two-column format and can also include optional cover pages or tables of contents in two formats: “As found in the brief” or “As found in the brief after the table of authorities.” If you choose the Download Brief option, Benchly asks whether you want a Hyperlinked Brief, a Collection of Cases Cited as Individual PDFs (which includes a hyperlinked copy of the brief) or A Single Combined PDF Including Brief and All Cited Cases. If you practice in a jurisdiction that permits filing of hyperlinked briefs, that option alone will save potentially hours of work. You can also export the citations to Microsoft Excel, where you can view a list of the cases cited, the citation in the Brief and the citation corrected for proper use. The Case Viewer returns you to the Brief Report Card.

And Even More For Your Money

For lawyers who only need to view and download the cases cited, the program is a tremendous time-saver. But other features can enhance your briefs even more. For example, you can upload and add hyperlinks to your documents, including exhibits. In addition, Benchly can take a brief and automatically create a table of authorities from it, which can be downloaded as a Word document.

Among the site’s enhanced features is the Case Viewer, where you can read a case and view its Bluebook citation. This screen also permits a user to Validate—View Summaries from Subsequent Cases. Choosing this dialogue opens a new window, displaying every case in which the selected case has been cited. Users can then review the listed cases, sorted by date, title or “best match.” You can limit the dates of results, add Boolean text or limit the results to one or more state or federal courts.

With all these time-saving features, it is easy to forget that Benchly is also a robust research tool. On the research screen (which the site calls the Search screen), you can search all state and federal courts or limit your search. The site offers three types of searches: an AI Concept Search, a Boolean Search or a Field Search, the latter permitting users to search by a case’s citation, docket number or title. If you select an AI search, you can fine-tune the results by selecting various Concepts the program has defined from your query. In my tests of the AI option, the results were either extremely accurate or completely missed the mark, quite similar to other AI-based research products.

Benchly is still maturing in some ways. For example, it does not include statutes from every state, but it does offer a helpful group of secondary sources, including the ABA Law Review/ Journal SearchUnfortunately, the Library of Legal Forms is limited to Top Texas Legal Forms, and the Background Connect option takes users to a third-party website. Once the service adds integrated search options such as these, Benchly will be of greater benefit, particularly in allowing attorneys to locate and view cases citing statutes and rules.

Doling Out Your Coins

When I initially tested Benchly, the cost was $35 per document. The company has since begun offering volume price options with month-to-month or annual pricing options. Firms with one to 15 users, for example, would pay $100 per month per user. Firms with 16 to 50 users would pay $95, with similar reductions for larger firms. The lowest cost is $80 per user for firms with more than 500 users who are invoiced. There is a $5 price reduction for electronic and credit card payment. The fees are reduced $5 per month per user if they are paid annually.

As a litigator, I have found that Benchly fits seamlessly into my practice and offers a valuable service at a relatively small cost, particularly compared with how long it takes to download cases individually. Few products are truly game-changers. Benchly is definitely one that made my life a lot easier.

Daniel J. Siegel is an attorney whose practice focuses on appellate law and providing ethical, technoethical, and professional guidance to other attorneys. He is also president of Integrated Technology Services, a consulting firm that assists law firms with improving their workflows.