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Methods and systems for identifying, assessing and clearing conflicts of interest

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20120278737 patent thumbnailZoom

Methods and systems for identifying, assessing and clearing conflicts of interest


Methods and systems for identifying, assessing and clearing conflicts of interest are described herein. Consistent with some embodiments, a conflicts management system receives a conflict search request, and processes the request utilizing a risk matrix that encompass and represents the risk tolerance or risk profile of a law firm. The risk matrix maps certain request types to different search queries and rules that are to be evaluated for a given request type. Based on the execution of the queries and the rules for the request, a score is assigned to a party, such that the score represents the level of risk that would be undertaken if the party was engaged as a client.

Browse recent The Frayman Group, Inc. patents - Brooklyn, NY, US
Inventors: Yuri Frayman, Serge Danilov, Alp Hug
USPTO Applicaton #: #20120278737 - Class: 715753 (USPTO) - 11/01/12 - Class 715 
Data Processing: Presentation Processing Of Document, Operator Interface Processing, And Screen Saver Display Processing > Operator Interface (e.g., Graphical User Interface) >Computer Supported Collaborative Work Between Plural Users >Computer Conferencing

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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120278737, Methods and systems for identifying, assessing and clearing conflicts of interest.

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RELATED APPLICATIONS

This patent application is a Continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 12/709,415, filed Feb. 19, 2010, which claims the benefit of the filing date of the U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/252,993, filed Oct. 19, 2009, which are hereby incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present disclosure generally relates to knowledge-based systems. More specifically, the present disclosure relates to methods and systems for identifying, assessing and clearing conflicts of interest.

BACKGROUND

In the legal profession, before an attorney (or a law firm) can engage and represent a potential new client, or represent an existing client in a new matter, the attorney (or law firm) must ensure that the new client representation does not, and will not, present a conflict of interest. In general, a conflict of interest exists when the representation of the new client (or the new matter for the existing client), results in a situation where an attorney\'s duty of loyalty to an existing client cannot be properly discharged due to the existing client having an interest adverse to the new client. For instance, a classic example is a divorce or child custody proceeding, in which it is generally impermissible for an attorney (or law firm) to represent both parties to the proceeding. In some situations, an actual conflict of interest can be waived by the client if the attorney (or law firm) seeks and obtains informed written consent from all affected clients. However, in other situations, a conflict of interest cannot be waived by a client.

A prohibited or undisclosed client representation involving a conflict of interest can subject an attorney to disciplinary hearings, the denial or disgorgement of legal fees, or in some cases (such as the failure to make mandatory disclosure), criminal proceedings. In some jurisdictions, a law firm typically cannot represent a client if the firm\'s interests conflict with those of another client, even if separate attorneys within the firm represent the adverse parties, unless the attorneys are segregated from the rest of the firm for the duration of the representation causing the conflict. Law firms often employ software-based systems in conjunction with their case management and accounting systems in order to meet their duties to monitor their conflicts of interest exposure, and to assist in obtaining waivers. However, a number of problems exist with the conventional software systems and techniques used for identifying the existence of potential conflicts, and clearing those potential conflicts.

A few of the many inefficiencies and problems that arise are described in connection with the illustration of a conventional workflow 10 for performing a conflict check, as illustrated in FIG. 1. First, after an attorney is contacted by a potential new client requesting representation 12, the attorney will communicate to a junior conflicts clearance analyst the information necessary to run an initial conflict check, which results in the generation of a conflicts check report 14. With many conventional software-based conflict clearance systems, there is but one interface to the system and that is generally targeted toward a conflicts analyst whose primary responsibility is interacting with the software to generate reports. Accordingly, there generally is no interface through which an attorney can interact with the conflict clearance system, and therefore the attorney is directly dependent upon the availability, skill and knowledge of a conflicts analyst.

Next, after receiving the necessary information from the attorney, the junior conflicts analyst uses the information provided by the attorney to expand the list of potential parties and to generate and process a search query 16. With many conventional conflicts checking and clearance systems, this operation is as much an art as it is a skill, and frequently depends upon the conflicts analyst\'s personal knowledge. For instance, if the conflicts analyst is personally familiar with an identified party, the conflicts analyst may have the necessary knowledge to expand the list to include the appropriate additional parties, for example, such as those with a direct affiliation to the identified party. In any case, with conventional conflict clearance systems, this step is both time consuming and has varied results.

Again referring to the conventional workflow 10 for processing a conflicts query, after generating and processing the search query, the junior conflicts analyst analyzes the initial search results to eliminate any obvious false positives, and in some cases, to refine and re-process the search query 18. Once satisfied with the search results, the junior conflicts analyst prepares a formal conflicts report, which may then be communicated to a senior analyst (or attorney) for review. The senior analyst (or attorney) may use his personal knowledge of informal business rules known to be in place and enforced by the firm to eliminate certain parties identified in the report, and/or modify or enhance the report 20, before providing the report to the attorney who initially requested the conflicts check 22. Here again, the process is highly dependent upon the personal knowledge of those persons participating in the process. This is problematic for a variety of reasons. First, if a key player in the conflicts checking and/or clearing process leaves the firm, so too does a wealth of knowledge used in processing conflicts checking and clearance requests. Additionally, because there may be several persons performing the same processing operations, the result of a particular search request will be highly dependent upon which personnel performed each processing step. As such, the results of multiple searches can vary greatly from request to request, resulting in conflicting reports that cause confusion and uncertainty. Moreover, as many of the processing steps are dependent upon personal knowledge of those doing the processing—such as the expanding of the parties included in the search query and the manual application of informal business rules—critical decisions are often not documented. If problems arise in the future with respect to a particular client representation, there may not be sufficient documentation to properly assess whether proper care was taken to avoid a conflict in the first place.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Some embodiments are illustrated by way of example and not limitation in the Figures of the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a workflow diagram showing the various operations involved in a conventional procedure for performing a conflict check;

FIG. 2 is a network diagram illustrating a computer network environment in which a conflicts management system, consistent with an embodiment of the invention, might be deployed;

FIG. 3 is a functional block diagram showing, among other components, a risk evaluation module and a collaborative conflict clearing module, included in a conflicts management system, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 4 is a data diagram illustrating an example of two related data structures, including a standard party data structure and a client data structure, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 5 is a diagram illustrating a risk matrix and several example rules, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 6 illustrates a functional block diagram of a conflicts clearance module having an interface with an e-mail server to facilitate the monitoring and archiving of user communications associated with certain processing operations, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 7 illustrates a user interface showing a conversation pane with a conversation that has been captured by the conversation tracking module of the conflict clearance module, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 8 is a workflow diagram illustrating the method operations involved in a method for generating a conflict report, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 9 is a workflow diagram illustrating the method operations involved in a method for clearing potential conflicts identified in a conflicts report, according to an embodiment of the invention; and

FIG. 10 is a block diagram of a machine in the form of a computer system within which a set of instructions, for causing the machine to perform any one or more of the methodologies discussed herein, may be executed.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Methods and systems for identifying, assessing and clearing conflicts of interest are described. In the following description, for purposes of explanation, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the various aspects of different embodiments of the present invention. It will be evident, however, to one skilled in the art, that the present invention may be practiced without these specific details.

Consistent with embodiments of the present invention, a conflicts management system includes a highly automated, adaptable and intelligent rule-based mechanism for identifying potential conflicts associated with the representation of potential new clients, or new matters for existing clients. In addition, the conflicts management system includes an interactive, self-learning, collaborative clearance module for clearing any identified potential conflicts that are not actual conflicts. In general, the conflicts management system facilitates a two-step process where the first step involves a highly automated process for identifying relevant parties (e.g., business entities, and people) that, if engaged by an attorney of the firm, could pose conflicts of interest problems. This first step is referred to herein as a conflicts checking process. The second step involves a collaborative method for processing a report resulting from the first step so as to quickly and efficiently establish whether a potential conflict is an actual conflict. This second step is generally referred to as clearing conflicts, or a conflicts clearing process.

In some embodiments of the invention, the logic providing the first step (e.g., the conflicts checking process) is embodied in a conflicts identification module that provides various user interface mechanisms by which users (e.g., attorneys and conflicts analysts) can interact with the conflicts management system, including a web-based interface and an e-mail interface. In some embodiments, the conflicts identification module includes a pre-processing module with natural language processing algorithms to convert natural language queries (e.g., received via email) to structured queries that are executed against a variety of internal, and in some cases, external data sources. After executing the search query (or queries) to identify the proper party names to be analyzed, a set of business rules are evaluated to derive one or more scores (e.g., risk scores) that are assigned to the potential new client and any parties identified as being related to the potential new client. The identified parties and their associated risk scores are then communicated in a report to the user who initiated the conflict check request.

Consistent with some embodiments, the report that is communicated to the user is presented as an interactive report, for example, formatted as a web page. For instance, the report may include user interface elements (e.g., buttons, drop down lists, menus, and so forth) that enable the user to quickly communicate with other attorneys who are responsible for an existing client engagement that poses a potential conflict with a new client representation. For instance, an attorney who requested the report may be able to simply press a button displayed in the report to automatically communicate a request to another attorney for additional information about a representation of an existing client who is displayed in the report as a potential adverse party to the potential new client, and for example, inquire as to whether the existing client would be likely to provide a waiver allowing the firm (or attorney) to represent the new client with respect to a particular matter. As such, the conflicts clearing process is highly automated, collaborative in nature, and results in a well documented decision that can be referenced during an audit, if necessary.

In some embodiments, the collaborative conflicts clearing process may also trigger a variety of post-clearance processing tasks. For instance, if and when all identified potential conflicts have been cleared, a variety of post-clearance tasks automatically occur, such as establishing the required client and matter number in various systems for billing purposes. As such, the conflicts management system provides for tight integration with a number of other firm-based resources, such as case management systems, docketing systems, billing, finance, accounting and time entry systems, as well as customer relationship management systems. Other aspects of the inventive subject matter are described below in connection with the description of the attached figures.

FIG. 2 is a network diagram illustrating a computer network environment 30 in which a conflicts management system 32, consistent with an embodiment of the invention, might be deployed. As illustrated in FIG. 2, the network environment 30 is shown to include a number of workstation computers 34 connected via a local area network 36 to a variety of server computers 32, 46, 48, 50 and 52. In addition, several remote services deployed on remote server computers (e.g., with reference numbers 38, 40 and 42) are connected to the LAN-based workstations 34 and servers 32, 46, 48, 50 and 52 via a wide area network (WAN) 44. As is typical in a law firm setting, each attorney is allocated a workstation computer to access a variety of local and network-based computer resources. The workstation computers illustrated in FIG. 2 are meant to encompass any variety and form factor of computer systems, including, desktop computers, laptop, notebook, or netbook computers, tablet computers, smart phones and other mobile devices. In the example network environment 10 of FIG. 2, the network-based resources, some of which may serve as data sources for the conflicts management system 32, include several server-based services and systems including: a case management system 46, a web server 48, an e-mail server 50, and a financial/accounting/time entry system 52.

In some embodiments, the conflicts management system 32 includes a variety of data interfaces and/or data integration modules that allow the conflicts management system 32 to access data and services that are external to the conflicts management system 32. For instance, in some embodiments, a data integration module may enable the importing of data from another data source. Similarly, a data interface may provide the ability to query a data source in real time, for example, during the processing of a request to generate a conflicts report. Such data sources may be internal (e.g., on the LAN) or external (e.g., on the WAN). Accordingly, the data interfaces and/or data integration modules provide the conflicts management system with a high degree of integration and interoperability with existing information technology resources and services, including by way of example, a case management system 46, web server 48, e-mail server 50 and financial/accounting and time entry system 52. Of course, in other embodiments, other data sources and services not specifically shown in FIG. 2 may also be integrated with the conflicts management system 32. Furthermore, a variety of external data services may be leveraged by the conflicts management system, for example, to include Dun & Bradstreet, CompliNet, WorldCheck, LexisNexis, Capital IQ, EquiFax, and others.

Consistent with some embodiments, the conflicts management system 32 may include an e-mail server interface enabling the conflicts management system 32 to receive, process, and send e-mails in an automated manner as part of the conflicts management process. In some embodiments, the email integration module may provide for the integration of the conflicts management system 32 with an e-mail server 50, such as Microsoft Exchange Server®. Using the e-mail interface, an attorney may direct an e-mail containing a natural language query to an e-mail address of the conflicts management system 32. Because the conflicts management system 32 is integrated with the e-mail server 50, the e-mail is automatically processed, and the natural language query is converted to generate a structured query. The structured query is processed to identify relevant party data, and associated party attribute data, and then several rules are evaluated, resulting in report data that is automatically communicated back to the requesting attorney in a formatted report, with no additional interaction by a conflicts analyst. By automating the process, attorneys are provided an intuitive e-mail-based interface through which they can interact with the conflicts management system 32 without requiring the assistance of a conflicts analyst.

Similarly, in some embodiments, the conflicts management system 32 may have a web server interface that makes various functionality of the conflicts management system 32 available, via a conventional web browser application, to both local and remote users, including both attorneys and specialized conflicts analysts. Accordingly, in some embodiments, attorneys and/or conflicts analysts interact with the conflicts managements system 32 via a web-based interface. In some embodiments, the web interface may be specifically formatted to support one or more mobile devices, including mobile phones or smart phones. In some embodiments, a native smart phone or mobile phone application may reside and execute on the smart phone or mobile phone device, such that interaction with the conflicts management system is via a client-based application other than a conventional web browser. In some embodiments, the conflicts management system 32 may include or be integrated with a computer-based telephony system or module (not shown), such as an integrated voice response (IVR) unit. Accordingly, in some embodiments, an attorney may interact with the conflicts management system 32 via a telephone. In such a scenario, a speech-to-text conversion process may analyze and convert a spoken request to a text-based structured query.

In some embodiments, the conflicts management system 32 includes one or more data integration modules or data interfaces that provide the conflicts management system 32 with access to other data sources. For instance, in some embodiments, a data integration module may provide access to data residing at a financial system, an accounting system, a time entry system, a case management system, or a customer relationship management system. Accordingly, using a data integration module, data from these various systems may be imported into a primary database of the conflicts management system 32. Alternatively, the data from these systems may be accessed in real time via a data interface as requests for conflict information are being processed by the conflicts management system 32. In addition to local data sources, in some embodiments the conflicts management system 32 may be operable to import data, or query data, from a remote third-party data source. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 2, the third-party data sources with reference numbers 38, 40 and 42 may provide information about various parties (e.g., business entities, officers, directors, employees, and other persons) as well as information that may be used in assessing a level of risk associated with parties. Such information might include financial information, information regarding known links or associations with terrorist or criminal organizations, and information regarding legal proceedings in which an entity or person is a named party, or any other information deemed relevant for purposes of assessing the risk of representing a party. In some embodiments, a third-party data source may provide raw data (e.g., financial information about a party) that can be used in the evaluation of business rules for assessing risk. However, in some cases, the information provided by a third-party data source may be processed data resulting from expert analysis on risk, and might include, for example, a list of parties know to be high-risk such as parties that are politically exposed, linked to terrorism, believed to be involved in money laundering, and so on.

FIG. 3 is a functional block diagram showing, among other components, a risk evaluation module 60 and a collaborative conflict clearing module 62, both included in a conflicts management system 32, according to an embodiment of the invention. In some embodiments of the invention, the software modules that facilitate the conflicts checking process and the conflicts clearing process are separate, such that the risk evaluation module 60 could operate independently of the conflict clearance module 62. However, in general, the conflict clearance module 62 will be dependent upon the report data generated by the risk evaluation module 60.

In general, users of the conflicts management system 32 will interact with the system 32 via a graphical user interface (GUI), for example, provided by a user interface component 64. In some embodiments, the GUI is web-based, such that interaction with the system occurs via a conventional web-browser application. In some embodiments, the GUI is provided by a desktop client application. In addition, users may interact with the system 32 by both sending e-mails directed to an address associated with the system 32, and by receiving automated response e-mails directly from the system 32. Furthermore, in some embodiments, the conflicts management system 32 includes an application programming interface (API) 66 which provides a programmatic interface to the system 32 for other applications. Accordingly, via the API 66, other internal systems may gain access to data and functionality associated with the conflicts management system 32. For example, in some embodiments, a new business intake module (not shown) may automatically generate one or more requests to generate conflicts check reports. These requests may be communicated to the conflicts management system 32 via the API 66. The new business intake module may be particularly useful for the batch processing of a large number of potential new clients resulting from a group of lateral attorneys joining a law firm.

In FIG. 3, the conflicts management system 32 is shown to be coupled to a local database 68 for storing various types of data, including what is generally referred to herein as “party data” 70. In the context of the present invention, party data 70 includes data that defines and identifies business entities, and the persons that own, operate, and are employed by such business entities. In general, a party can be any person or entity subject to representation by a law firm, and/or subject to the jurisdiction of a particular court. The party data 70 includes not only the specific data that uniquely identifies a party, but also the data that can be utilized in assessing the risk that is posed by representing a particular party. Accordingly, the party data 70 includes what is generally referred to herein as party attributes data 70. Party attributes data 70 might include financial information concerning a particular business entity or person. To the extent a firm or attorney has an existing relationship with a particular party, any billing information or matter-specific information might be utilized as party attributes data 72, for the purpose of assessing the risk of representing that party in a new matter. In some embodiments, party attributes data 72 may include one or more pre-calculated risk scores for a particular party.

In some embodiments, the party data 70 and party attributes data 72 will be stored within data structures (e.g., database tables), such as those illustrated in FIG. 4. FIG. 4 shows a data diagram illustrating an example of two related data structures, including a standard party data structure 100 and a client data structure 102, according to an embodiment of the invention. Accordingly, information about unique parties may be stored in a standard party data structure 100. In the example presented in FIG. 4, the standard party data structure 100 includes data fields for storing the following data: a party identifier 104, such as a unique system-generated identifier used to uniquely identify a particular party in the system; a party name 106, which identifies the party; notes 108, for example, concerning various aspects of the party; a status 110; a credit rating 112 for the party; annual revenues 114 for the party; and a parent standard party identifier 116, which may identify and link the party to another party, such as an affiliated business entity.

In addition to the standard party data structure 100, there is shown a client data structure 102. In some embodiments, the client data structure 102 includes many data fields specific to the law firm\'s representation of the client. For instance, in addition to data fields for a client identifier 118, a client name 120, and a standard party identifier 122, the client data structure 102 includes data fields for: notes 124; a status 126, for example, indicating whether the client is an active client, or a closed client no longer being represented by the firm, or other relevant information about the client representation, such as a client contact person; a date opened field 128 for indicating when the client engagement started; a date closed field 130 for indicating when the client representation may have ended; and a responsible attorney field 132 for indicating the attorney or attorneys at the law firm who are primarily responsible for the client representation. Of course, the data fields shown in FIG. 4 are presented as examples to convey a general understanding, and in various embodiments, the data fields may vary considerably from what is specifically depicted in FIG. 4.

Referring again to FIG. 3, in some embodiments, there are several sources of party data 70 including the party attributes data 72. For instance, in some embodiments, one or more data integration modules 74 may be utilized to perform a data import operation to import data from any number of existing data sources, including internal (e.g. law-firm owned and maintained) sources, as well as external, third-party sources. For instance, in some embodiments, the data source may be the firm\'s existing case management system, billing system, financial or accounting system, time entry system, customer relationship management system, or e-mail system. In some instances, the data import operation facilitated by the data integration module 74 may occur manually on a one-time or periodic basis. Alternatively, the data import operation may occur automatically on a periodically scheduled basis that can be customized.

When party data is imported from another data source with a data integration module 74 the imported data is categorized, indexed and stored in the local database, for example, in data structures or database tables, such as those illustrated in FIG. 4. Accordingly, each data integration module may have a mapping module (not shown) to map certain source data fields to the target data fields to which the data is being imported. This not only allows the party data 70 to be efficiently searched but also allows the party data 70 to be utilized in the evaluation of rules by a rule processing engine 86. For instance, as described in greater detail below, party data 70 serves as an input to a variety of declarative rules, which are used to derive risk scores that are assigned to the parties presented in the conflicts check report. Accordingly, a conflicts check report not only identifies parties that may present conflict issues, but the report provides a measure and type of risk that might be posed by representing the party. Moreover, as described in greater detail below, the rules can be customized and grouped into risk profiles so as to enable the law firm to define the particular types of risk that are of primary concern to the law firm.

In some embodiments, a data interface 76 to another data source may provide a mechanism for querying internal or external data sources in real time or substantially real time, for example, during the processing of a particular request to generate a conflicts check report. For instance, as illustrated in FIG. 3, a data interface 76 is shown coupling the conflicts management system 32 to a third-party data source. In some embodiments, the third-party data source may be a remote subscription-based data source, such that the law firm operating the conflicts management system 32 is required to subscribe to a data service provided by the third-party. In some embodiments the third-party data source may be a data service provided by the software developer who provides the conflict management system 32. Although not specifically shown in FIG. 3, a data interface may also couple the conflicts management system 32 to an internal data source, for example, such as any of the server-based resources illustrated in FIG. 2.

As illustrated in FIG. 3, the risk evaluation module 60 includes a search and analysis engine 78 as well as a report generating module 80. The search and analysis engine 78 includes a pre-processing module 82, a search engine 84, and a rule processing engine 86. In general, the risk evaluation module 60 receives and processes requests to generate conflicts check reports that display, among other things, current client representations that may conflict with a potential new client representation. The request is initially processed by the search and analysis engine 78 of the risk evaluation module 60. In some cases, when a request is first received, it is processed by a pre-processing module 82, which accepts search term(s) and normalizes the search terms consistent with built-in logic and processing options that may be passed to the pre-processing module as parameters. The goal of the pre-processing step is to produce search terms which are likely to result in more accurate hits than would be possible without pre-processing. Once the pre-processing is complete, a search is performed by the search engine 84 to identify relevant parties, such as existing clients that may be adverse to the potential new client, parties that are known to be affiliated with the potential new client, and/or parties that are known to be affiliated with a party designated as a known adverse party. The search engine 84, for example, queries one or more database tables residing in the local database 68, and in some instances, one or more external data sources. Finally, for the potential new client and each party identified to be affiliated with the potential new client, one or more risk scores are generated by evaluating a set of business rules with a rule processing engine 86. The data output of the search and analysis engine 78 is then processed by the report generating module 80 to generate a conflicts check report that is communicated to the user who initiated the request.

A request to generate a conflicts check report may be generated via a variety of user interfaces. Accordingly, the exact steps taken to process the request may vary and be dependent upon the specific format of the received request, as well as the type of request. For example a web-based request may clearly identify and define the entities or parties to be searched, and the particular role each entity or party has in the search request. Specifically, in a web-based request a party may be clearly identified as being a potential new client or a known adverse party. However, in a request received via e-mail, the request may be formatted as a natural language query, such that the parties specified in the request are not clearly denoted with a specific role for the search, such as a potential new client or adverse party.

For example, an attorney may specify a natural language query in a request in an e-mail, such as, “Hi, can I represent IBM SemiConductors in a litigation case in the US, NY jurisdiction, against AMD?” As such, an e-mail request may require natural language processing to generate a structured query.

In some embodiments, the natural language processing is facilitated by the pre-processing module 82. For example, when a request is received at the risk evaluation module 60, if the request is formatted as a natural language query, the pre-processing module 82 of the search and analysis engine 78 first performs a number of pre-processing tasks. One such task involves processing the natural language query with a natural language processing algorithm to generate a structured query. In some embodiments, the pre-processing involves logic that performs a set of pre-processing operations by default, as well as several optional pre-processing operations that can be triggered by specifying one or more command parameters with the request, or triggered based on an analysis of the natural language query itself.

In some embodiments, the default pre-processing operations include processing the search terms to remove grammatical suffixes, such that the search term “universities” becomes “university”, or modifying verb forms (e.g., by removing “-ing” from gerund verb forms), modifying verbs specified in past tense form (e.g., ending in “ed”), or modifying words specified as comparatives or superlatives (e.g., ending in “-er” or “-est”). In addition, entity names may be compared and or replaced with formal synonyms and the spelling normalized. For example, if “Bank of America” is specified in a request as “B of A” or “BoA”, the short form of the entity may be expanded to its more formal name.

In some embodiments, certain pre-processing operations are optionally performed. For example, a parameter passed to the pre-processing module 82 may indicate that search terms are to be stemmed, for example, such that the term “universities” would be shortened to “universit”. Additionally, spell checking and phonetic suggestions may be optionally performed, based on a parameter being passed to the pre-processing module 82. In some embodiments, analysis of a natural language query may trigger additional pre-processing operations. In any case, for all pre-processing operations (e.g., default and optional), when pre-processor functionality has been applied to search terms, each resulting term is added as a sub-line to the corresponding original search term. Consequently, the search is expanded by adding additional terms.

After the pre-processing module 82 has generated an expanded search query, the search engine 84 processes the search query to identify relevant parties, and the relevant party attributes data 72 for deriving a risk score for each relevant party identified. In some embodiments, each search query is assigned or otherwise associated with a query type, and the query type indicates the particular data sources that are searched by the search engine 84. For example, a search query that is associated with a request to generate a conflicts check for a client representation involving some type of transactional work may be a different type of search request than one involving a client representation for a litigation matter. Accordingly, in some embodiments, the particular nature of the proposed client representation may dictate that a different type of search is performed. As such, some search queries may be executed against different sources of data depending upon the particular type of request that is being made.

In any case, once the search engine 84 processes the search query or queries against the one or more data sources (e.g., such as the local database 68), the relevant data identified in the search or searches is used as input data for the evaluation of one or more rules by the rule processing engine 86. The rule processing engine 86 processes the rules to derive scores that can be used independently as risk scores, or in some instances, combined for the purpose of generating one or more aggregate risk scores for one or more different categories of risk. For instance, in some embodiments, for each party identified in the search and included in the conflicts search report, the rule processing engine 86 will evaluate one or more rules identifying various party attributes. Based on the evaluation of the party attributes for an identified party, one or more scores are generated to reflect a level of risk for representing that party. In some embodiments, the scores may be normalized and presented via a scale, such as: unranked (0-25% of maximum), low (26-50% of maximum), moderate (51-75% of maximum), and high (76-100% of maximum). Of course, in other embodiments, other scales may be used, such as a green, yellow, and red, where green represents low risk, yellow represents moderate risk, and red represents high risk. In some embodiments, a raw score (e.g., a number) may be reported.

Consistent with some embodiments, a rule is defined as a declarative statement that maps a risk score to the evaluation of a statement that identifies one or more parties, party attribute values, a specified absolute or relative value, and an operator. For example, a rule may take the general form of one of the examples that follow:



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Application #
US 20120278737 A1
Publish Date
11/01/2012
Document #
13548054
File Date
07/12/2012
USPTO Class
715753
Other USPTO Classes
International Class
06F3/048
Drawings
11



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