Legal Research Questions: What to Search for Best Results

It’s been said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. But the thing with technology is, as with magic, you need to use it right. We all remember this scene from Harry Potter, and what happens if you say Wingardium LeviOsa instead of Wingardium LeviosA: 

Now - fortunately - Alexsei won’t blow up in your face if you don’t use it right. But while it won’t explode, you could still be left disappointed much like young Ron Weasley was. So today we’re going to share some magic incantations/spells that will help you get the best possible results from Alexsei. These incantations are templates/formulas for how to put questions together which we’ve found to be very effective in generating good answers. As for why, sometimes it’s a feature of how the AI works, sometimes it’s a feature of how the law works - in any event, approaching questions in this way makes for better results, more efficiency, and higher satisfaction. 

Feel free to use these and variations and see what a difference they make.

  1. "What is the test..."

    This is our #1 recipe for amazing results. If you can formulate your question around a test, you’re very likely to get a great answer. Alexsei does a fantastic job of finding the test for one holding or another; Judges love to break things down into tests, and the law is organized around them. Some examples:

    a) What is the test for a CPL?

    b) What is the test when a plaintiff seeks to plead self-induced intoxication?

    c) What is the test to award unequal division of matrimonial property where one of the spouses was abusive?
  2. "When will..."

    Need to find situations with a specific result and or the conditions for that result? This is a great formulation to use for that. This formulation can be used to help you figure out what sorts of arguments have been successful and in what types of cases. Some examples: 

    a) When will the court find that a monetary loss constitutes irreparable harm for the purposes of a Mareva injunction?

    b) When will a left-turning driver be found to be not-at-fault for a collision in an intersection?

    c) When will the Human Rights Tribunal order reinstatement?
  3. "How have the courts..."

    Find out how the courts interpret things or how they’ve dealt with analogous situations with this query starter. This is especially good for queries where you want to explore and examine how a court approaches stuff broadly. You can restrict it to your province by adding something like “How have the [AB/BC/ON/NS/etc..] courts…”.Or try a tribunal name (e.g., ‘How has the CAT…”) - whatever suits you! Some good use-cases might be things like:

    a) How have the courts interpreted Act of God clauses in commercial leases?

    b) How have the courts dealt with claims by contractors for extras which were not requested in writing?

    c) How have the courts apportioned liability where the plaintiff wasn’t wearing a seatbelt?
  4. "What are the factors..."

    Know what you’re looking for and want to narrow it down to more specific aspects? This formula will help you figure out exactly what courts look at, especially for discretionary or ambiguous decisions. Excellent examples of when to use this include:

    a) What are the factors in determining the date of separation?

    b) What are the factors considered with respect to whether a person is an employee or an independent contractor?

    c) What are the factors the court turns to in deciding whether to award substantial indemnity costs?
  5. "..., with respect to/in light of XXX?"

    Get into the nitty gritty with this backwards-first approach. This one is perfect for handling statutes and other questions where you can provide a high degree of legal context. Using this to start your question allows our system to focus in on the particular area and ensures you get the results that you had in mind. But note also that you can use this to see how courts have applied tests to particular situations. Want to see some examples of how it could be used? Here you go:

    a) Is a step-uncle an insured person with respect to the SABS?

    b) What is the extent of the requirement of good faith contractual performance in light of the decision in Wastech?

    c) When responding to a suit for damages sustained in an accident, where in the order of priority is the lessor of a vehicle used for business purposes in light of/with respect to s.277 of the Insurance Act?