By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
So you're slated for trial before a judge who is new to you. Naturally, you do your due diligence and try to find out all you can on what makes this judge tick. The result? A few broad comments and stories in response to an all-firm email. If you're lucky, you find someone who clerked for the judge. Maybe you use Lexis and Westlaw to pull up recent relevant decisions and review a few of those decisions directly. The understanding you get is partial, based only on a small sample of what that judge has done. Now, imagine you have the ability to see, on one screen, all of your judge's published and unpublished opinions, all of the cases the judge has cited, and the language he likes to use when citing them. Imagine having access to the most common sentences and phrases the judge likes to use across different decisions. Imagine a single listing of links to all of the times the judge has been mentioned in the news and in legally-relevant blogs. That information -- a "big data" approach to assessing your judge -- is now available in a service called "Judge Analytics" rolled out last week by a company called Ravel Law.
The name "Ravel" is pronounced, not like the French composer of Boléro, but so as to rhyme with "gavel" -- Ravel is the opposite of "unravel." The aim of the program, as stated in a brief introductory video, is to "help you understand how a judge thinks, writes, and rules." Through an analysis of the full text of opinions, the program highlights patterns and tells you which cases and authorities your judge finds the most influential, and "even the sentences she likes to copy and paste in her decisions." Up to this point, Ravel's focus has been on citation research, applying a unique method of visualizing the connections and showing the relative importance of cases, producing a graphic web of citations and subsequent and supporting decisions. That visual approach to researching precedents and case law seems like it would be incredibly useful to associates, but for partners and for litigation consultants, the new "Judge Analytics" feature might be the more interesting offering. In this post, I will take a look at some of the possibilities of this "big data" approach to audience analysis.