Moneyball Law

Expect to see judge trading cards in the near future. It’s inevitable because the Moneyball era of justice is upon us. You’re not going to want to stop collecting until you have every federal judge in the country. How else are you going to follow the game?

I bring this up because Bloomberg Law has been promoting its “Litigation Analytics” with a free sample that shows how five federal judges have ruled in employment cases over the past five years. The stats apparently include how long each judge has taken to issue rulings.

The five judges being compared are from New York, Illinois, Florida, Texas and California. I have no idea what kind of case would allow you to make a choice between those states.

Be that as it may, I guess the idea is that you can predict likely outcomes of your cases by learning the tendencies of your judges. Kind of like putting the shift on for batters who pull the ball.

Of course, this assumes that lawsuits are fungible and arguments irrelevant.

The length of time judges take for rulings is a weird statistic too. Aren’t some cases more complicated than others?

And what if a judge pulls a hamstring while lifting briefs?

But let’s not quibble over details. Analytics are way too much fun to ignore. I just worry that Bloomberg and other data analyzers aren’t focusing on the right statistics.

Fortunately, I have suggestions for record-keeping.

Start with smiles per hour. Knowing your judge is primarily affable can take the pressure off less-experienced attorneys and allow leeway for banter and the occasional loud tie. Conversely, counsel should strictly avoid jokes in front of a jurist with a record of surliness.

I urge caution in compiling smile statistics, however. An expert scout should be able to distinguish between an amused grin, a smirk, and a laugh accompanied by an eye roll. A bad pun in front of a smirker could doom your litigation.

Of course, whether a judge rules left or right is also a key stat. If you’ve got a corporate client and a lefty judge, argue that your client would be devastated to have to lay off thousands of employees if it lost. If the judge is a righty, stop worrying.

And, of course, there are innumerable situational factors to consider, e.g. rulings for and against left-handed women lawyers, lunch schedules, sustains versus overrules, ability to stay awake and how the judge handles a curveball like a surprise witness.

I could go on and on, but I’m pretty sure Big Data will eventually take all these things into account.

Then maybe we can just skip the litigation since we already know what’s going to happen.

By the way, we shouldn’t overlook the marketing aspects of this statistical revolution. Fantasy judging alone could generate enough money to finance the entire legal system. There will be demand for televised trials so that players can follow their team judges and/or decide whom to trade.

And then there’s merchandising. I know I want my Notorious RBG robe to wear to the courthouse.

I also can’t wait to complete my Supreme Court bobblehead collection. Note to manufacturers: The conservative dolls should shake their heads and the liberals should nod.


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