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Guide: Legal AI and Research for Litigators (Updated 2024)

How attorneys use Paxton to deepen their research, draft motions, and more

Litigation is a team sport. Effective legal teams rely on detail-oriented researchers, capable and clear writers, and charismatic and sharp lawyers in the courtroom. At Paxton, we’ve found that legal AI has the potential to help litigators deliver better services on all of these fronts, leading to better client outcomes and often to greater billable hours.

Paxton is more than just a “ChatGPT for attorneys” – it’s a powerful tool built on a custom large language model that meticulously cites its claims without hallucinating cases. In this article, we’ll provide advice on how to get the most out of our legal AI as a litigator by engineering effective prompts for research. (In our next piece for litigators, we'll discuss how to use it to draft briefs, memos, motions, and more.)

Paxton helps you do better, faster legal research

Legal research is the bedrock of effective litigation. With its extensive database containing over 200M+ documents, including all published federal case law, every federal and state statute, and all published state case law above the district court level, Paxton streamlines the research process. Its ability to quickly summarize statutes and case law enables litigators to grasp the legal intricacies surrounding their cases with ease, getting information on multiple jurisdictions quickly. To make the most of Paxton as a research tool, we’ve identified best practices for drafting prompts:

Foundational Principles

Before diving into examples, let's review three fundamental principles for engineering optimized prompts:

1. Seek Clarity

Craft clear, concise prompts that state your objectives directly. Eliminate any ambiguity. For example, many people ask, “Can you file a suit for …?” as a short hand for asking if a suit would be likely to succeed against a known affirmative defense. It’s better to just ask: “Would the suit be likely to succeed against [specific] affirmative defense?” 

2. Furnish Details

Equip Paxton with specifics like document names, dates, jurisdictions etc. to tailor the response. For example, if you have a tax law question about a business real estate swap, direct Paxton: “Make sure to check statutes about like-kind property for the specific rules governing this question.”

3. Offer Context

Provide necessary background details and explain the reasoning behind your prompt. Suppose you’re doing criminal defense research, and you want to learn what will make a state upgrade its charges for a burglary to a higher degree. If you’re interested in what the state considers a residence because your client burgled a barn, tell Paxton that the defendant burgled a barn so it can search for cases with a similar fact pattern.

Applying these principles ensures you get the most pertinent, accurate results from Paxton.

Example prompts and suggestions

Here’s an example of how to go from a weak prompt to a great one. Suppose you’re representing a plaintiff in Michigan who wants to sue a pharmaceutical company. Your plaintiff was injured when he tore his rotator cuff while taking a prescribed antibiotic that – years after it was added to the market – was publicly revealed to weaken connective tissue. This is a classic product liability claim involving pharmaceutical drugs. Give Paxton a prompt like this, and start with the Laws and Regulations section:

“Suppose you are representing a plaintiff. Plaintiff tore their rotator cuff while taking an antibiotic called fluoroquinolone. Years after the drug was released, it was revealed to weaken connective tissue, making rotator cuff tears extremely likely. The drug was approved by the FDA but this side effect was concealed from regulators or unknown. In Michigan, would this suit have a high likelihood of succeeding? Identify and consider the most salient affirmative defenses the pharmaceutical company could raise in evaluating the likelihood of success, and identify any statutes relevant to determining the outcome.”

WIth a specific question, you get a strong, specific answer, with each claim meticulously cited with a parenthetical:

Based on the provided cases, I would advise the plaintiff that a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company for failing to disclose risks associated with the antibiotic fluoroquinolone has a reasonable likelihood of succeeding in Michigan. The key considerations are: 1. Under Michigan law, pharmaceutical companies have a duty to disclose known risks to regulators and the public [1],[2],[3]. In Attorney General v. Merck, the court found that Merck failed to adequately disclose cardiovascular risks identified in clinical trials, violating its duty of care [2]. This suggests the company in your scenario may be liable for failing to disclose rotator cuff risks. 2. However, pharmaceutical companies are generally immune from liability for FDA-approved drugs if the drug and labeling complied with FDA standards when it left the company's control [4],[5],[6]. This defense has succeeded in multiple Vioxx lawsuits [5],[6]. So the company may argue FDA approval bars liability. 3. But the immunity statute does not bar all claims. The Merck dissent argued it should be limited to products liability claims by injured consumers, not third-party reimbursement claims [6]. If courts accept this narrow interpretation, the defense may not apply here. 4. Additionally, the statute does not bar claims involving fraud in FDA approval [4],[5]. So if the company concealed risks from regulators, the defense could be overcome. 5. Proving causation will be key. The plaintiff must show disclosure would have impacted FDA approval or Medicaid coverage decisions [7],[8],[9]. 6. Damages must also be proven based on Medicaid payments directly attributable to nondisclosure [7],[9]. Speculative future profits may not suffice [9]. In summary, the claim appears reasonably likely to succeed based on the pharmaceutical company's duty to disclose risks, the limitations of the immunity defense, and the ability to prove causation and damages. But overcoming the FDA compliance defense will be a key issue requiring evidence of fraud or a narrow interpretation of the statute. Thoroughly investigating the company's disclosures and knowledge at relevant times will be important. Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions! [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9] 

Here, Paxton picked up on something unique in Michigan case law – there is precedent based on the court’s interpretation of a unique statute that provides a strong defense for pharmaceutical companies, one that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the rest of the country.

Of course, Paxton is powerful for more than just products liability litigators. Litigation teams and attorneys are using it to power their suits in contracts disputes, securities claims, criminal defense, and so much more. For litigators navigating the complexities of their practice, Paxton stands as a formidable ally. Its unique features, specifically tailored to meet the demands of litigation, guarantee that every research is exhaustive, every brief is compelling, and every motion is a strategic step towards victory. With Paxton by your side, litigators can tackle the intricacies of their practice with confidence, armed with the right tools to secure success in the courtroom.

In a subsequent post, we'll tackle how to use Paxton to interpret opposing counsel's motions and to evaluate your own. 

In the meanwhile, we hope you'll start your research journey on Paxton today by visiting www.paxton.ai and signing up for a free account.

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