Using Analytics to Make Smarter Litigation Strategies


Michael Sander is the founder and CEO of Docket Alarm, Inc., a legal research and analytics company based in New York City. Docket Alarm’s mission is to bring order to unstructured legal information to support legal decision making. Before founding Docket Alarm, Michael was an associate at a top-tier intellectual property boutique, with a practice focused on patent litigation in federal district courts, the International Trade Commission, and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.


What projects or ideas have you been focusing on recently?

We have been focusing on our Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) analytics platform.  Legal analytics is a new research methodology that helps lawyers devise a tactical litigation strategy from data and statistics. We analyze thousands of court cases, and generate statistics a variety of case factors. For example, we can tell an attorney how tough a particular judge is, how aggressive an adversary is, your overall chances of winning, and how long it will take. Lawyers use this information to make client pitches, and come up with a litigation strategy.

We have been focusing on the PTAB because it is a relatively new court (formed in 2012) that has become quite popular.

What could lawyers look at in a new way that would benefit their clients and society?

Analytics provide an entirely new way to look at litigation. The ability to see a bird’s-eye view of not just one case, but thousands in a jurisdiction, can shed light on when and how to litigate the issues. For example, our case flow diagram (depicted below) shows every case in the PTAB and the frequency of when certain events occur.  These charts can be generated specific to a party, so you can see how they typically litigate.

Junior attorneys may have the most to gain from legal analytics, because it allows them to easily see the outcomes of hundreds of cases, building up a knowledge-base that normally takes years of experience to gain.

What one thing about the practice of law would you change if you could?

There is an unfortunate tendency in litigation to focus on side issues (discovery disputes, etc.). Anything that can be done shift energy to the merits of a case is a good thing.


What is the most exciting development you have seen recently in the practice of law?

Fortunately, in patent litigation, with the advent of the PTAB, attention has been refocused on the technical merits of a case. The speed and cost savings in the PTAB have made it popular forum, which is why Docket Alarm is focusing on it.

What technologies, business models, and trends do you think will have a big impact on the practice of law over the next two years?

Over the longer term, I believe that analytics has the ability to change the way attorneys research cases. Rather than blind keyword searches, attorneys will start with a more general description of a case, will be prompted to add details, and the analytics engine will automatically find the related relevant cases, and more directly help the attorneys devise a litigation strategy. This may resemble a very basic form of AI. Law firms and corporate counsel will make more data-driven decisions on when and how to bring and settle cases.

The overall effect of these new tools will add visibility into a client’s cases, and if these tools are used by both sides, will ultimately increase the chances of settlement, and reduce litigation.

About the Author

Nicholas Gaffney is a member of the Law Practice Today Editorial Board and is a veteran public relations practitioner in San Francisco.

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