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Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

We All Have Stats

November 16, 2020

Can statistics make you a better litigant? Some new services seem to think so.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

Do you have the feeling that the world is a lot less human these days? Do you think you’re a statistic in someone’s algorithm? Well, there’s a good chance you’re right.

It’s happened to consumers and now it’s happening to lawyers. I have conflicting feelings about this, but before we get into that, a quick aesthetic aside. Consider the design below from the website exparte.com:

What does this mean? Why are the scales of justice inside an LED bulb?

Usually those scales are being held by a blindfolded lady wondering what somebody stuck in her hand. Somehow, those scales have gotten loose and then imprisoned in a light bulb. Maybe the idea is to blind the lady if she tears her blindfold off.

Now I know some of you are going to say that the idea is to shine light on the legal system. I don’t buy it. When was the last time you put something inside a light bulb to see it better? You shed light on stuff outside the light.

Someone needs to rethink this.

But back to our main topic. Lawyers are entering databases. I’ve randomly discovered two different companies lately that are using statistics to tell law firms and clients whom they should hire. The basic idea is to find lawyers who have the most success, experience and lowest cost for particular sorts of work.

One of the companies, Ex Parte Inc., even provides odds of winning appeals depending on which lawyer you hire.

OK, that’s useful from a law-consumer point of view if it’s the least bit accurate. I have some doubts — bad cases give you bad database numbers — but people love marketing numbers and sometimes they work.

A couple of things will happen next.

One is that someone will file a class action demanding payment for use of personal data. The irony of this will be that many of the plaintiffs will be lawyers who defend companies that use consumer data for free.

The other thing is the creation of companies specializing in advising lawyers how to raise their ratings in hiring databases. That sort of service works for Google placement. It should work for lawyer stats too.

Another question: If you can predict the outcome of a case, why litigate at all?

This is the answer to court congestion.

Inspiration. Joking aside — and I really hate to put joking aside — I was seriously impressed by this passage toward the end of a website note from the founders of one of the stats firms, Priori Legal:

“In the course of fundraising for Priori, we have negotiated a term sheet while in labor, pitched from the hospital bed the morning after giving birth, pitched (and worked) without childcare during lockdown, pumped breastmilk in the bathroom of a prominent VC firm in the 10 minutes before a pitch, had three babies in the course of two fundraising rounds and chosen redeye flights so we could make sure to have breakfast with our kids before heading back into the office.”

I think they may have buried the lede.

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