Law students compete to beat the Fastcase relevance algorithm


Competition Summary

Fastcase recently released a new feature allowing users to customize their relevance algorithm and choose what kinds of document get pushed to the top of their search results. For the first time, users of a major legal research platform can have a say in how their search engine works without being a data scientist or software developer. Now that it is possible for anyone to change the algorithm, we want to find the best one possible, and that’s where you come in! We’re looking for engaged and tech-savvy law students to try their hand at beating our default algorithm. The winning submission will replace the existing defaults for all 800,000 users with access to Fastcase. The winning student will get $1000, a Chromebook, and an internship offer from Fastcase!

Bragging Rights

“I wrote the Fastcase relevance algorithm.”


A free ChromeOS powered laptop


A one thousand dollar cash prize


A paid internship offer at Fastcase

Challenge Opens

03/15/29 March 15th

Submissions Due

04/19/29 April 19th, 6pm Eastern

Winner Announcement

05/29/19 May 29th

Enter the Challenge

How to Register


  • Fill out the registration form
    • You can find form via the button above, or at
    • You can register for the Challenge any time after 9am on March 15th and before the submission deadline at 6pm Eastern on April 19th.
    • To qualify, you must be a student actively enrolled in classes at a US law school.
  • We’ll send you a confirmation email
    • The email will have some advice to get you started,
    • We’ll also set you up with a username and password to grant full access to Fastcase for the duration of the contest.
  • Start messing around!
    • Play with the relevance sliders and watch what happens to your search results.
    • You can find a quick tutorial video on how to use the sliders at
    • If you need help, you can always reach out to our team at

How to Submit

  • Once you are registered, we will send you a link to an online form where you can submit your Relevance Algorithm.
    • Submissions are due by 6pm Eastern on April 19th, 2019.
    • Only one submission is allowed per student, so make yours count!
  • You will need to be prepared to submit all of the following information:
    • Recommended weight (0-10) for each relevance factor
    • Responsiveness (frequency and proximity of Search Terms)
    • Importance (frequency of citation)
    • Document Size (number of words in the document)
    • Authority (favors documents from higher sources like SCOTUS)
    • Date (favors recent documents)
    • Document Type (favors different kinds of document)
      • Cases And Court Materials
      • Legislative Materials
      • Administrative Materials
      • Commentary
      • Practice Aids
      • Profiles
    • Published Materials (disfavors unpublished / slip opinions)
    • Frequently Read (favors documents read often)
    • Frequently Favorited (favors documents often saved)
    • Frequently Printed (favors documents printed often)
    • Frequently Emailed (favors documents often emailed)
  • Brief Explanation (<500 words)
    • Why these values? What does your proposed algorithm do particularly well? What kinds of searches did you use for testing? What kinds of search does your algorithm not work as well for, and why did you choose not to focus on them?

How to Register

  • To win the competition, your Relevance Algorithm submission will have to outperform all the other entries, and outperform the current Fastcase default values.
    • The winning submission will be a set of weights that perform well in a wide variety of circumstances.
    • Bear in mind that these values are meant to be a default – they may not be the “best” for any one type of search.
  • Entries will be judged by a committee of three judges; including Ed Walters and Phil Rosenthal (the co-founders of Fastcase), and Susan Nevelow Mart (the preeminent legal scholar on the subject of Algorithmic Bias).
  • If the winning set of values is submitted by more than one student, the prize will go to the student with the best explanation of why the proposed weights should be used as a default.
  • If you need advice, we’re happy to help! Feel free to reach out to our reference team at
  • Recommended Reading: The Algorithm as a Human Artifact by Susan Nevelow Mart

Winner Announcement

  • Fastcase will be announcing the winner of the competition on May 29th, after we have tested and evaluated all of the submissions.
    • The winner will be announced on this page, and via a post on the Fastcase Blog.
    • The winner will also be informed directly.
  • There may be honorable mentions for submissions that perform certain types of search particularly well.
    • For example there may be a “best for Statutes” submission, or a “best for broad searches” submission.
  • When the winner is announced, the judges will also disclose the full methodology used to evaluate the submissions and will explain why the winning submission was chosen.

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