Proceedings of the Natural Legal Language Processing Workshop 2019

Nikolaos Aletras, Elliott Ash, Leslie Barrett, Daniel Chen, Adam Meyers, Daniel Preotiuc-Pietro, David Rosenberg, Amanda Stent (Editors)

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Minneapolis, Minnesota
Association for Computational Linguistics
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Proceedings of the Natural Legal Language Processing Workshop 2019
Nikolaos Aletras | Elliott Ash | Leslie Barrett | Daniel Chen | Adam Meyers | Daniel Preotiuc-Pietro | David Rosenberg | Amanda Stent

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Plain English Summarization of Contracts
Laura Manor | Junyi Jessy Li

Unilateral legal contracts, such as terms of service, play a substantial role in modern digital life. However, few read these documents before accepting the terms within, as they are too long and the language too complicated. We propose the task of summarizing such legal documents in plain English, which would enable users to have a better understanding of the terms they are accepting. We propose an initial dataset of legal text snippets paired with summaries written in plain English. We verify the quality of these summaries manually, and show that they involve heavy abstraction, compression, and simplification. Initial experiments show that unsupervised extractive summarization methods do not perform well on this task due to the level of abstraction and style differences. We conclude with a call for resource and technique development for simplification and style transfer for legal language.

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Scalable Methods for Annotating Legal-Decision Corpora
Lisa Ferro | John Aberdeen | Karl Branting | Craig Pfeifer | Alexander Yeh | Amartya Chakraborty

Recent research has demonstrated that judicial and administrative decisions can be predicted by machine-learning models trained on prior decisions. However, to have any practical application, these predictions must be explainable, which in turn requires modeling a rich set of features. Such approaches face a roadblock if the knowledge engineering required to create these features is not scalable. We present an approach to developing a feature-rich corpus of administrative rulings about domain name disputes, an approach which leverages a small amount of manual annotation and prototypical patterns present in the case documents to automatically extend feature labels to the entire corpus. To demonstrate the feasibility of this approach, we report results from systems trained on this dataset.

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The Extent of Repetition in Contract Language
Dan Simonson | Daniel Broderick | Jonathan Herr

Contract language is repetitive (Anderson and Manns, 2017), but so is all language (Zipf, 1949). In this paper, we measure the extent to which contract language in English is repetitive compared with the language of other English language corpora. Contracts have much smaller vocabulary sizes compared with similarly sized non-contract corpora across multiple contract types, contain 1/5th as many hapax legomena, pattern differently on a log-log plot, use fewer pronouns, and contain sentences that are about 20% more similar to one another than in other corpora. These suggest that the study of contracts in natural language processing controls for some linguistic phenomena and allows for more in depth study of others.

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Sentence Boundary Detection in Legal Text
George Sanchez

In this paper, we examined several algorithms to detect sentence boundaries in legal text. Legal text presents challenges for sentence tokenizers because of the variety of punctuations and syntax of legal text. Out-of-the-box algorithms perform poorly on legal text affecting further analysis of the text. A novel and domain-specific approach is needed to detect sentence boundaries to further analyze legal text. We present the results of our investigation in this paper.

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Legal Linking: Citation Resolution and Suggestion in Constitutional Law
Robert Shaffer | Stephen Mayhew

This paper describes a dataset and baseline systems for linking paragraphs from court cases to clauses or amendments in the US Constitution. We implement a rule-based system, a linear model, and a neural architecture for matching pairs of paragraphs, taking training data from online databases in a distantly-supervised fashion. In experiments on a manually-annotated evaluation set, we find that our proposed neural system outperforms a rules-driven baseline. Qualitatively, this performance gap seems largest for abstract or indirect links between documents, which suggests that our system might be useful for answering political science and legal research questions or discovering novel links. We release the dataset along with the manually-annotated evaluation set to foster future work.

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Litigation Analytics: Case Outcomes Extracted from US Federal Court Dockets
Thomas Vacek | Ronald Teo | Dezhao Song | Timothy Nugent | Conner Cowling | Frank Schilder

Dockets contain a wealth of information for planning a litigation strategy, but the information is locked up in semi-structured text. Manually deriving the outcomes for each party (e.g., settlement, verdict) would be very labor intensive. Having such information available for every past court case, however, would be very useful for developing a strategy because it potentially reveals tendencies and trends of judges and courts and the opposing counsel. We used Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques and deep learning methods allowing us to scale the automatic analysis of millions of US federal court dockets. The automatically extracted information is fed into a Litigation Analytics tool that is used by lawyers to plan how they approach concrete litigations.

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Developing and Orchestrating a Portfolio of Natural Legal Language Processing and Document Curation Services
Georg Rehm | Julián Moreno-Schneider | Jorge Gracia | Artem Revenko | Victor Mireles | Maria Khvalchik | Ilan Kernerman | Andis Lagzdins | Marcis Pinnis | Artus Vasilevskis | Elena Leitner | Jan Milde | Pia Weißenhorn

We present a portfolio of natural legal language processing and document curation services currently under development in a collaborative European project. First, we give an overview of the project and the different use cases, while, in the main part of the article, we focus upon the 13 different processing services that are being deployed in different prototype applications using a flexible and scalable microservices architecture. Their orchestration is operationalised using a content and document curation workflow manager.

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Legal Area Classification: A Comparative Study of Text Classifiers on Singapore Supreme Court Judgments
Jerrold Soh | How Khang Lim | Ian Ernst Chai

This paper conducts a comparative study on the performance of various machine learning approaches for classifying judgments into legal areas. Using a novel dataset of 6,227 Singapore Supreme Court judgments, we investigate how state-of-the-art NLP methods compare against traditional statistical models when applied to a legal corpus that comprised few but lengthy documents. All approaches tested, including topic model, word embedding, and language model-based classifiers, performed well with as little as a few hundred judgments. However, more work needs to be done to optimize state-of-the-art methods for the legal domain.

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Extreme Multi-Label Legal Text Classification: A Case Study in EU Legislation
Ilias Chalkidis | Emmanouil Fergadiotis | Prodromos Malakasiotis | Nikolaos Aletras | Ion Androutsopoulos

We consider the task of Extreme Multi-Label Text Classification (XMTC) in the legal domain. We release a new dataset of 57k legislative documents from EURLEX, the European Union’s public document database, annotated with concepts from EUROVOC, a multidisciplinary thesaurus. The dataset is substantially larger than previous EURLEX datasets and suitable for XMTC, few-shot and zero-shot learning. Experimenting with several neural classifiers, we show that BIGRUs with self-attention outperform the current multi-label state-of-the-art methods, which employ label-wise attention. Replacing CNNs with BIGRUs in label-wise attention networks leads to the best overall performance.