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How Litigators Can Leverage Data to Gain a Competitive Advantage

By Ari Kaplan, Jeff Jacobson and Nicole Clark

Ari Kaplan speaks with Jeff Jacobson, a litigation partner with Faegre Drinker Biddle and Reath in New York, and Nicole Clark, the Co-Founder and CEO of Trellis, a state trial court research and analytics platform, which recently introduced its Law Firm Intelligence tool to offer insights on business and competitive intelligence for law firms.


Ari Kaplan

Tell us about your background and your practice at Faegre Drinker.


Jeff Jacobson

I have been a commercial litigator for 27 years and focus on consumer class action defense. I have been in private practice for my entire career, except for a two-year period when I was in the New Jersey Attorney General's Office running the Civil Division and serving as Chief Counsel.

Ari Kaplan

You practiced law for about six years before launching Trellis. What inspired that shift?


Nicole Clark

I also did a lot of class action work, as well as employment and wage and hour matters, and could not believe that the largest court system in the world was unavailable through a single interface. It was a black box for litigators so that frustration inspired us to make the state trial court system more accessible.

Ari Kaplan

What role do data and analytics play in your practice?

Jeff Jacobson

The last thing you would ever want to tell a judge is that he or she is predictable because every case is decided on its own merits and is unique, yet if I know that a judge denies 95% of a particular kind of motion, or that a judge is more likely to react well to one particular argument versus another, it will help develop a strategy, particularly in a class action suit because it really does offer a number of off-ramps if you're creative enough to find them. But lawyers need to match the off-ramp to the judge and data helps to better understand a judge’s approach. Ari Kaplan

How has Trellis evolved to help litigators navigate this increasingly complex docket?

Nicole Clark

Trellis can give you high-level analytics on a judge, such as how they rule on specific pretrial motions or where in the lifespan of a case a dispositive motion may have an effect, but then we dig into the underlying data. With analytics, you can review a judge’s cases in similar practice areas or where an opposing counsel has appeared before them before to develop insights that can help change the trajectory of a case. Settlements in class action cases, for example, must be approved by the court to satisfy notice requirements, so Trellis contains all of this data, which will help a lawyer understand other class action matters before that judge or others in the same county, with a similar class size and based on similar legal issues. It will also highlight the experience level of the plaintiffs’ firm, how have they settled, their fees, and other details that could help reveal their strategy and the potential exposure.


Ari Kaplan

How do you use data to gain a competitive advantage?


Jeff Jacobson

In the end, there is no substitute for experience and judgment. So, it is how you use the data that gives one lawyer an advantage over another in terms of winning the business and a case. I bring decades of experience to each decision, but data is vital because I don't want to act purely on instinct. I want to apply real-world information to my experience, but would not make decisions based solely on the data.


Ari Kaplan

How does the release of Law Firm Intelligence support innovation-centric partners working to solve problems for their clients?


Nicole Clark

Law Firm Intelligence is our newest release that allows you to look across the state trial court system at a law firm level. This has been impossible previously because the data is so fragmented across thousands of courts, but also in each court, many list an individual attorney appearing on the case, rather than the law firm. We have been able to map attorneys to where they worked when the case was moving forward, despite the complexity of lateral movement, and surface insights on the law firm level about their cases, how long their cases take, and the practice areas involved. There are many insights you can get from a business perspective, such as understanding the experience of an adversary in this particular region before this judge. Every time you look at metrics, you can dig into the underlying data and learn how those lawyers managed similar cases, such as whether they typically take cases to trial and the types of motions they file. Attorneys also use the data to evaluate their own firms and to track the judges they appear before most often. They can quickly see all of the firm's cases before that judge and the partners that appeared before that judge previously.


Ari Kaplan

How critical is it for litigators to be aware of the most current technology available?


Jeff Jacobson

You need to be aware of everything because if you're unaware of it, one of your competitors is. That said, even though I want to be aware of everything and am excited about being the third one through the door, I'm a little leery of being the first one to deploy something brand new. With something like Trellis, the data is the data so there is no reason not to be an early adopter.


Ari Kaplan

What new opportunities can law firms realize with more detailed intelligence?


Nicole Clark

Lawyers should use data to gain practical insights that will allow them to make decisions on a case level that will benefit their clients. There is also the business perspective where data can help a partner that's pitching a particular client or evaluating the profitability of a specific practice area. Data can help legal teams understand a firm's business, where it is growing, and which practice areas or regions are most active to improve the organization’s revenue opportunities. Law Firm Intelligence can help lawyers compare their firms to others a client may be considering using public data that highlight the difference in the breadth of work it has performed, the results, it has obtained, and its experience based on case volume. It can also empower a firm to assess new revenue opportunities.


Ari Kaplan

How do you see law firms benefiting from litigation intelligence of this type in the future?


Jeff Jacobson

This data is a crucial piece in an overall puzzle. The ability to get data from a state court system, such as New York and New Jersey, where I practice all the time, or California, where I practice periodically, has been difficult in comparison to the federal courts. So if I am going to practice in a new state, I will look at this data and it will be very useful, but I will also hire a local practitioner in the area who is familiar with the judge and the system to put that data in context and make sure that I'm not misusing the information in service of a flawed strategy. The existence of these new litigation analytics is extremely exciting and creates new opportunities, but you need to put them in the right hands to use in the right way. You cannot just make decisions based solely on the numbers without combining them with the talents of a practitioner who is familiar with what is behind the data.


Ari Kaplan

How does Trellis ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data presented in Law Firm Intelligence?


Nicole Clark

Our underlying data comes directly from the courts, which we supplement with additional information and analytics. With Trellis, you can verify each aspect of the underlying data because every single metric that we provide is linked to the underlying documents in the case file. We are pulling in hundreds of millions of cases across the state trial court system and classifying them, but even when you have algorithms and models coming up with output, you still need humans to confirm them and address any anomalies.


Ari Kaplan

How do you see litigation evolving?


Jeff Jacobson

Prior to the pandemic, I would spend two days flying back and forth to California for a 30-minute status conference. Now, they are completed by video call and I don’t think we are returning to the old model, but I no longer have a chance to look a judge in the eye and I cannot read the room as well on video. This means that data is even more important because if I am losing certain human interactions, at least I am armed with better information. While technology is removing some of the hand-to-hand combat aspects of litigation and replacing them with more analytical tools. If we are going to be technology dependent, let's have the best technology.

 

About the Author

Ari Kaplan regularly interviews leaders in the legal industry and in the broader professional services community to share perspectives, highlight transformative change, and introduce new technology at Reinventing Professionals. Click here to listen to the conversation between Ari Kaplan, Nicole Clark and Jeff Jacobson Ari Kaplan, and his series at Legal Business World



1 Comment


Masker Yulia
Masker Yulia
Nov 28, 2023

I will at least have better information even if I am losing some human interactions, this makes data even more crucial. run 3

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