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Concept searching software and applications for in-house attorneys

In-house counsel use word searching frequently. In Microsoft Word, for example, you can use the “find” function within a single document or in Outlook across directories. Lawyers are also familiar with Google Desktop Search and its ability to search for multiple words (See my post of March 5, 2005.)

In-house lawyers also generally feel comfortable with Boolean word searching. From early days of using on-line tools in law school, they learned to search for a word within five of another word (proximity) or one word before another word (relative location). But, the most powerful technique should be concept searching.

Concept search software looks at a portion of text, or perhaps an entire document, and characterizes it by certain words, their frequency, and synonyms to those words. Using that entire package of interpretation and various search algorithms, the software finds elsewhere what it deems conceptually-similar passages.

Much more powerful than single word, multiple word, and Boolean word searches, concept searching appears most commonly in litigation support. As the techniques improve, concept searching will be of inestimable value more generally in law-department knowledge management and even helping clients.