As data has infiltrated nearly every facet of the legal industry, legal analytics are in high demand. Lex Machina, a recognized leader in the legal analytics field, offers practice area modules that provide valuable, strategic insights into federal district court claims for many of the most popular legal specialties in today’s market.
The latest addition to Lex Machina’s legal analytics arsenal is its new torts module, which provides data on civil claims in federal district court for torts, including premises liability, negligence, assault and battery, defamation, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and medical malpractice.
We recently sat down with Carla Rydholm, Director of Product Management at Lex Machina, to discuss some of the features of the new torts module and how it can change the practice of law for torts practitioners.
Can you give us some background on why the torts module was created?
Lex Machina wants to bring legal analytics to all areas of the law. This is the latest in a series of modules we’ve created on different topics. Torts is a big data set in terms of total cases. It’s also an everyday aspect of doing business — torts are everywhere and have a very broad social and economic impact.
Lex Machina is an expert at legal analytics for federal district court. We’ve been offering our product since 2010, and we’re now adding a torts module because we know we have a large, high-value data set on damages and dispositive rulings, and excellent data for counsel, parties, judges, and expert witnesses. The new module is really exciting to us because we’re able to uncover a lot of meaningful trends. We’re bringing data to an area of law that’s ripe for analysis and analytics.
What does the torts module cover? Can you give some examples of how it can be used?
Torts has a large volume of available data. There are nearly 200,000 cases, covering a breadth of situations, with the common theme that a party seeks compensation for loss or harm caused by personal injury or reputational harm. With that much litigation out there, knowing what your prospective client has seen before in their prior cases, or what’s happened recently, can be helpful to informing case strategy.
The torts module can be used to obtain analytics in a number of ways, including running party searches, brushing up on how often elements of a given tort have been ruled on, searching for a particular court or judge, searching for specific law firms or counsel, and analyzing the damages typically awarded in similar cases.
For example, with damage awards, you can focus your analysis from all tort cases down to damage awards resulting in a particular court, for specific subsets of cases, including premises liability, motor vehicle, medical malpractice, Federal Tort Claims Act, and mass tort cases. Once you’ve identified the relevant awards in the district court of interest, for example “pain and suffering (torts)” in the Southern District of New York, you can narrow them down even further by judgment source, such as jury verdicts and filter by the torts premises liability case tag. So, in a matter of seconds, you can go from 200,000 tort cases to just a handful of jury verdicts in premises liability cases in the Southern District of New York with a damage award for pain and suffering. For any results, the full underlying cases are always available.
Damage awards is just one example. Other common uses for the module include running party searches, getting information on typical case timing for budgeting purposes, and understanding both your potential clients and your competition in order to best pitch for new business.
Can you talk about some of Lex Machina’s apps that might be useful for torts law?
Apps work very differently than the main module. The idea with apps is that they’re an easy way to get an answer to a very specific question — you would use apps when you want to answer pre-curated questions.
Right now we have nine apps that work across all our different practice areas. For example, Courts & Judges Comparator can be relevant if you’re considering transferring venues. Law Firm Comparator could either be used by one of our corporate users to assess law firms, or by a law firm that wants data to anchor real world objectives on experience and success rates. Early Case Assessor is a quick way to gain insight on a party and their attorney, while Attorney Team Analyzer has a corporate use case when in-house counsel is trying to understand the difference between different attorney teams.
There’s also a tenth app, Expert Witness Explorer, that’s specific to product liability and torts. This is where we’re continuing to expand what we’re doing with expert witnesses, starting with these two practice areas, where experts are especially vital. Having experts is a critical part of trial strategy in torts in terms of establishing that there was an injury or what duty the defendant owed the plaintiff, whereas experts are more commonly used for determining damages in other practice areas. In product liability and torts, liability itself often hinges on that expert testimony, so we’ve developed this app specifically to address the needs of those fields. You can see if an expert witness has previously been challenged, what the outcome was, or if their testimony has been limited in any way.
How can lawyers make the best use of the new torts module?
One major use case is counseling clients — talking through what the case strategy is, budgeting, expected case outcomes, and how to make important case decisions. Having objective, real-world data definitely anchors your ability to provide sound counsel.
We also have a customer base that’s more strongly rooted in litigation. People who are in the business of litigation, for example litigation finance, have a particular need for data analytics because they deal with cases that could result in big damage awards, and torts certainly falls in that category.
Finally, we also have customers that use litigation data to set big picture business strategies. Analytics help them understand how they did financially in the previous year and provide a very holistic market analysis of what’s currently happening. When Lex Machina first started, even explaining what we were doing took a long time. Now there’s an expectation that databases exist and that you should be able to access every case that ever happened before and evaluate patterns for cases like yours. These clients expect to be able to easily assess everything that’s happened across a business or a firm. Lex Machina makes that possible. So that’s a big internal use case for us as well.
When will the torts module be available to the public?
We released it to our current customers on June 30th. Our full launch, including a webcast, will be on July 9.