LEGAL RESEARCH CORNER
BY JAN BISSETT AND MARGI HEINEN
It is an age-old lawyer's dilemma—what will the judge decide? Sleepless nights, calls or emails to colleagues to probe past experiences, and research to see how somewhat similar fact patterns have fared with this judge were all part of the strategy. Now comes Big Data! Large data sets of judicial behavior and case outcomes can be examined to offer predictive analysis or trends.
One piece of that real estate—judicial analytics—offers an intriguing view of the struggle with predicting judicial behavior. We touched on judicial analytics in our May 2017 article, "Beyond Court Decisions—Dockets, Documents, and Analytics."1 Since then these sources have only continued to increase in popularity and offerings. This article provides a more in-depth analysis to help researchers determine which products are appropriate for their research and litigation needs.
Lex Machina2 (launched in 2006) and Ravel Law (launched in 2012)3 were the first analytics products to draw the attention of legal researchers. Both specialized in intellectual property research when they were first introduced. Noting their popularity with researchers, Lexis ultimately acquired both Ravel Law and Lex Machina and incorporated their functionalities into LexisAdvance.4Judicial analytics products are now available from the "big three" legal research platforms: Bloomberg Law, Lexis, and Wesdaw. Other eager entrants into this growing market include providers such as Gavelytics,5 as well as newcomers Trellis: Legal Intelligence,6Loom Analytics,7 and Premonition.8
Manage Your Expectations
Reading vendor brochures, requesting a trial use, and speaking candidly with current users are just a few ways to begin to evaluate how a resource may work for your particular research situation. It's easy to focus on the judges or courts where your practice is concentrated or you spend the most time, but it's important to consider potential and future uses too. Are you taking a deep dive into how a particular judge thinks? What do the products provide for you that you can't access now? Who else might be using the product, and how else might this information be used within your practice? Is the vendor in the process of adding materials to the newly minted product? If so, how long will it take before complete coverage is available? How reliable have researchers found this information to be?
Is your book of business federal? Or. is state practice your bread and butter? Many vendors have found that mining PACER gives them a huge database of federal opinions and orders ripe for analyzing.9Wesdaw and Lexis have been collecting decisions for years from a variety of jurisdictions, but for many of those years the emphasis was on officially reported appellate decisions. This practice has made it harder to find state court trial decisions and orders that have no database similar to PACER. If you're interested in a state court, you may want to check out Gavelytics, Premoniton, or Trellis: Legal Intelligence, especially for California courts. State courts are notoriously independent and employ a wide range of technology tools for providing e-filing and sometimes public access. Mining these varied sources is much harder and less reliable titan accessing PACER, so depending on the state you're interested in, you may not find much help...