Announcing the Launch of LegalOptics

image description

It all started with a crazy idea. What if we could something impossible: analyze the court cases that happen every day across the nation? What if we could use that data to show people what happens in cases like theirs, whether or not hiring an attorney is an advantage, and even what attorneys get the best result for each judge?

So we got to work. We went through several platforms and iterations searching for the right fit. Ten months later we're announcing the launch of LegalOptics, a site that shows people with DUI cases what happens in cases like theirs, as well as what attorneys do best with each judge. We're starting small with DUI cases in Hillsborough County Florida, but plan on expanding as soon as we can.

How does it work?

Our system pulls case details out of criminal case dockets and puts the information into a big (and ever-expanding) database. Our algorithm then assigns each case a "grade" based on the outcome and what happens along the way. You can read more about our grading process here. The algorithm then isolates those attorneys whose average case grades are 10% above the average for all private attorneys, and runs checks against that group. Tech specs: for the tech person out there, our program is written almost entirely in Python 3, with our web-end in Django on a MySQL db.

Wait - why do the grade thing at all? Why not just use win vs. loss?

Using the binary 'win or lose' metric to measure success sounds nice, but in reality it doesn't capture the nuances of what actually happens in litigation. Even the most simple criminal case is complicated in its own way. We found that the work an attorney does that's reflected in the docket - depositions, motions, discovery - has an effect on the outcome. We developed our grading system to more accurately reflect

Why DUI Cases?

Several reasons. First, DUI cases have the highest percentage of people hiring private attorneys than any other misdemeanor criminal case type. This means we have a larger sample size to work from when determining attorney performance. Second, while misdemeanor DUI cases are complex they really only have a handful of variables to consider, and that makes analysis easier than felony cases where considerations of sentencing, prior offenses, mandatory minimum sentences, degree differences, depositions, and other factors make modeling much more difficult. Third, criminal cases always have a reported outcome, unlike most civil cases that are resolved or settled confidentially.

Why start with Hillsborough county?

We started with Hillsborough county for three reasons. First, it's where I (Sam) have practiced criminal defense. This means I (Sam again) know how the system here works in its day-to-day functions, and this made gathering and developing analytical models easier. Second, it's a large county in Florida, so there's a lot of data to use. This gives us confidence in the model, since 247,000 court records is a better sample size than five. Third, Florida is an open-data state, and Hillsborough county's court data is relatively easy to get compared to some other counties that punish data gathering with captchas or forcing users to install Silverlight.

How does it make money?

By attorneys paying for both advertising and access to our data. We're an attorney advertising resource, we're not shy about saying that. But let's be clear about one thing: attorneys do not pay to be graded by our algorithm. They also can't pay us to receive a better average grade. Attorneys pay to claim their profile page and to get access to our court data through a data portal.

What are the challenges moving forward?

The primary challenge we're facing is the availibility of data. Even in a state like Florida that has open data laws (Florida's is called the 'Sunshine Law'), courts are very reticent to put data that should be publically available online. Someimtes, even though they do put data online they do it in a haphazard way, or in ways designed to discourage any meaningful use of the data.

Where do you go from here?

We're working on expanding to more counties and states, as well as adding more case types. If you want to reach out and say hi, drop us a line on our contact page.