Online legal document libraries, such as WorldLII, are indispensable tools for legal professionals to conduct legal research. We study how topic modeling techniques can be applied to such platforms to facilitate searching of court judgments. Specifically, we improve search effectiveness by matching judgments to queries at semantics level rather than at keyword level. Also, we design a system that summarizes a retrieved judgment by highlighting a small number of paragraphs that are semantically most relevant to the user query. This summary serves two purposes: (1) It explains to the user why the machine finds the retrieved judgment relevant to the user’s query, and (2) it helps the user quickly grasp the most salient points of the judgment, which significantly reduces the amount of time needed by the user to go through the returned search results. We further enhance our system by integrating domain knowledge provided by legal experts. The knowledge includes the features and aspects that are most important for a given category of judgments. Users can then view a judgement’s summary focusing on particular aspects only. We illustrate the effectiveness of our techniques with a user evaluation experiment on the HKLII platform. The results show that our methods are highly effective.
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