Visualizations continue to crop up in legal research software. This trend has been occurring for a handful of years now, and has been a topic I’ve spent a lot of time researching and talking about. The question is, can a visualization make a specific area of legal researching easier, faster, better, more relevant, etc? We have seen them in a lot of different arenas: Ravel incorporating visualizations into case law research, Monitor Suite and Bloomberg Law employing visualizations to spot litigation trends for companies, a number of software platforms (PatentIQ, Lex Machina) introducing visualizations into patent and IP research, pretty much every area of law has seen some element of visualizations creep into their researching software. Rank And Filed is one of the latest to move their chips onto the visualization table, and is specifically tailored for SEC filings.
SEC filings might get hedge-fund managers frothing at the mouth with excitement, but for most of us, they are as dry as dirt. It’s really hard to induce excitement with 10-ks, 10-qs, proxy statements, etc., but Rank And Filed is valiantly attempting to do so by displaying a company’s securities filings visually–as per the Apple Inc. visualization below:
The filings module does represent a nice way to filter towards specific filings, jump back in the past, and spot filing trends (which can suggest a lot about a company’s activity), but Rank and Filed is also flexing their muscle by creating a few more modules that deliver really unique information. For example, there’s a C-Suite module that displays a timeline of company executives:
There’s an Influence module that displays “ownership among the Company’s officers, directors and beneficial owners since 2003”:
And even a heat map for word frequencies in SEC filings, to visually show you the most frequently-used words:
Long story short, visualizations do help us interpret information that would otherwise be very difficult to discern. And, it is fascinating to see software developers create visualizations to expose very-difficult-to-parse information. Long story short, this trend is going to continue in legal research, and is going to direct what types of information we can deliver to our requestors. And, short story long, I recommend touring around the Rank And Filed site to toy with the free visualization offerings available, and to see if they have succeeded in their mission to deliver “SEC filings for humans”.