Law search is fundamental to legal reasoning and its articulation is an important challenge and open problem in the ongoing efforts to investigate legal reasoning as a formal process. This Article formulates a mathematical model that frames the behavioral and cognitive framework of law search as a sequential decision process. The model has two components: first, a model of the legal corpus as a search space and second, a model of the search process (or search strategy) that is compatible with that environment. The search space has the structure of a “multi-network”—an interleaved structure of distinct networks—developed in earlier work. In this Article, we develop and formally describe three related models of the search process. We then implement these models on a subset of the corpus of U.S. Supreme Court opinions and assess their performance against two benchmark prediction tasks. The first is to predict the citations in a document from its semantic content. The second is to predict the search results generated by human users. For both benchmarks, all search models outperform a null model with the learning-based model outperforming the other approaches. Our results indicate that through additional work and refinement, there may be the potential for machine law search to achieve human or near-human levels of performance.

Peter A. Beling et al., Modeling Law Search as Prediction, 29 Artificial Intelligence & Law 3–34 (2021).