Great piece by Tam Harbert, who wrote about our work on FantasySCOTUS, profiling Josh Walker and Lex Machina:
Just as Oakland Athletics’ General Manager Billy Beane, made famous by Michael Lewis’s book and the Brad Pitt movie, analyzed sabermetrics statistics to field winning baseball teams, Lex Machina customers can look at stats on courts, judges, attorneys and patent rulings to put together a better legal offense or defense in the high-stakes game of patent litigation—instead of relying on their experience and instincts . . .
Walker recruited advisors from Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Lab to help make the legal data usable. They start with the raw data in the IPLC, which comes from an online database called thePublic Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER)/Case Management/ElectronicCase Files (CM/ECF) project. Lex Machina then applies proprietary AI processes and incorporates the expertise of legal scholars, practicing IP attorneys, federal judges and others. It’s taken a lot of human analysis and coding to make the data useful.
“The PACER data is like raw iron ore,” says Walker. “But we’re trying to build a Prius engine. The most valuable thing we’ve done is to clean up the data and make it useable. That’s a hugely difficult task.” Walker says the outcome coding by the administrative office of the U.S. courts was wrong more than half the time, and many cases were miscategorized. Others, such as trade secret cases, did not have a federal code or related data tags. Cleaning this data takes a lawyer and an AI engineer working together, he says. “Part of the secret sauce is not what we’re doing but how accurate we can make it, how legally rigorous we can make it,” he adds.
Lex Machina won’t discuss its customers or pricing for its service. As a Stanford spin-out, Lex Machina makes the database available for free to certain public-interest entities, including the courts, academics, government policymakers and media outlets. . .
“Increasingly CFOs need this predictive modeling information,” he says. Today, attorneys tend to judge their chances in a patent case by gut feel. “The state of the art is outside counsel putting their thumb in the air and feeling which way the wind’s blowing,” says Walker. “Moneyball is a great supplement to the expert’s gut.”