Effective Document Clustering for Large Heterogeneous Law Firm Collections

Jack G. Conrad, Khalid Al-Kofahi, Ying Zhao, and George Karypis
10th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law (ICAIL), pp. 177-187, 2005
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Computational resources for research in legal environments have historically implied remote access to large databases of legal documents such as case law, statutes, law reviews and administrative materials. Today, by contrast, there exists enormous growth in lawyers' electronic work product within these environments, specifically within law firms. Along with this growth has come the need for accelerated knowledge management--automated assistance in organizing, analyzing, retrieving and presenting this content in a useful and distributed manner.

In cases where a relevant legal taxonomy is available, together with representative labeled data, automated text classification tools can be applied. In the absence of these resources, document clustering offers an alternative approach to organizing collections, and an adjunct to search.

To explore this approach further, we have conducted sets of successively more complex clustering experiments using primary and secondary law documents as well as actual law firm data. Tests were run to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of a number of essential clustering functions. After examining the performance of traditional or hard clustering applications, we investigate soft clustering (multiple cluster assignments) as well as hierarchical clustering. We show how these latter clustering approaches are effective, in terms of both internal and external quality measures, and useful to legal researchers. Moreover, such techniques can ultimately assist in the automatic or semi-automatic generation of taxonomies for subsequent use by classification programs.

Research topics: Clustering | Data mining | Information retrieval