Do you like pictures more than words in your legal research? Generally, I’d say you were out of luck. That is, UNTIL RAVEL LAW (cue large auditorium echoes).
Ravel is a newish, alternative legal research platform with a strong focus on pictures (professionally, we call them info-graphics). It doesn’t have the same extensive coverage of Westlaw or Lexis, most notably lacking statutes and regulations. Then again, it allows for free Supreme and Circuit Court case searching, and offers an advanced plan for only $175 a month. You can also score a free student or educational trial version by contacting them.
Here’s a quick example of exactly how Ravel works. On the front page, it provides a general search bar. If I start typing in a case name, it will auto-complete likely responses. In case you were wondering, Community For Creative Non-Violence v. Reid was the seminal case for our spring research problem, so we can all pretty much recite it by memory.
Once the case loads, you are provided with a lot of information. The case is printed down the middle of the page. On the left Ravel gives you information about the where and how often that part of the case is cited. The footnotes are provided in the right-hand column instead of the bottom, which is convenient. Ravel also links to the relevant Wikipedia article.
One of the most interesting things about Ravel is its lore visual searching. For instance, if I search for “work for hire” AND “copyright,” we get the below result. If you hover over the case, it will show you your case and all the other cases citing it in visual format. Focusing in on the case gives even more information.
Ravel can be a cost effective way for attorneys to research cases. Is it Westlaw or Lexis? Not really. But, used effectively, especially in concert with a free state bar subscription for Fastcase (another research platform lots of states–including South Carolina–provide for free with bar membership), Ravel can be a pretty powerful tool for doing case-law research. Best of all, they offer free trials and free educational access at https://www.ravellaw.com/.