5 Ways Legal Data APIs Are Transforming Law Firms

on Topics: Legal Data API | Legal Tech

5 Ways Legal Data APIs Are Transforming Law Firms

To stay competitive in a digitized legal landscape, understanding data and how it functions is a must. The Data as a Service (DaaS) industry has drastically changed the way society does business by allowing us to better interpret consumer and competitor behavior, develop personalized marketing campaigns, and make informed, evidence-based decisions. Application programming interfaces (APIs) play a critical role in this shift by recentering our ability to gather and understand data. The secret to success in the legal industry is learning how to keep up with technological advancements. That includes understanding how APIs are being used and incorporating them into your practice.

APIs are software intermediaries that allow different programs to communicate with each other, and they are used in many of our online activities. Suppose you’re heading to work and tell Google Maps to look up the nearest coffee shop. An API will then use programming codes to retrieve your caffeinated request, interpret it in the backend, and then present you with a list of coffee shops from Google’s database. This is just one way APIs are used in our daily lives. They also allow you to standardize, develop, and find data quickly, easily, and accurately across multiple platforms. In other words, APIs cut out the noise so you’re not getting results for 5-star restaurants when you want a latte.

As the legal industry continues to embrace advances in legal technology, API integration has been crucial to maximizing efficiency and helping law firms thrive. Here are five ways Legal Data APIs are transforming law firms.

Streamlining Litigation Management

Litigation analytics can act as a powerful diagnostic tool, but analytics alone do not guarantee success in managing litigation. They need to be paired with other legal tech solutions and strategic plans to move law firms forward. APIs streamline litigation management by gathering structured litigation data from the start and enhancing matter management solutions with real-time data feeds and case updates. 

Connecting matter management systems and other internal databases to Legal Data APIs allows law firms to develop the real-time reporting needed to build their own analytics discipline and put in place modernized process automation for handling caseloads. This is essential for managing litigation spikes impacting law firm clients and determining the seriousness of lawsuits.

Law firms can also go beyond managing litigation spikes as they occur. With the help of APIs, firms can download structured court data in bulk, so they can proactively identify trends and mitigate (or even completely avoid) unnecessary litigation risks. The ability to track litigation trends in real-time means firms can predict potential threats, rather than react to them later. 

Data Structuring, Classification, and Normalization

APIs don’t just gather structured data, they can also provide a better way to access normalized data. Law firms are becoming increasingly focused on structuring and analyzing their own data and external sources. Firms can now use APIs to get structured data from legal data providers into their own systems, so they can combine it with the firms’ internal data to deliver new data-driven insights for a variety of use cases, such as staffing, pricing, and predictive analysis.

The goal of entity normalization is to identify and verify real world entities and connect all other relevant information to their names, such as phone numbers, email addresses, bar numbers, and office addresses. Combining normalized data with APIs enriches internal databases with more complete data sets. This information can help counsel make valuable inferences about entities of interest, such as opposing counsel, parties involved in litigation, and judges to craft an informed litigation strategy. 

APIs remove the need for legal professionals to do manual data entry tasks. They automate data collection, and provide the structured data needed for building advanced analytics. Along with proper structuring, classification, and identification of real world entities, API integration allows firms to build more accurate analytics, boost customer relationship management (CRM) efficacy, and create countless new and innovative uses from access to reliable, structured data. 

Supporting Business Development Initiatives

APIs can support business development initiatives at law firms in a variety of ways. Data can drive market share analysis and competitive intelligence, insights on other lawyers for legal recruiting, and strategic decision-making on the medium-to-long term health and viability of certain practice areas.

Law firms can use legal data to uncover opportunities with current and prospective clients. They can use Legal Data APIs to gather reporting for the last couple years on all of the cases involving clients that they want to do more business with, and see how much of that client’s legal work they’re getting compared to their client’s total volume of cases. 

Looking at your client’s litigation data can tell you how much litigation work they’re sending your way, whether total market share with your client is increasing or decreasing over time, and much more. With this information, an attorney can make more informed decisions, such as whether they want to expand their practice areas to gain new business from their clients, and whether there are cases that they want to take on that are being sent to other law firms.

Firms can target their legal recruiting to grow strategically by looking at a potential lateral recruit’s litigation experience and client roster. They can use Legal Data APIs to gather data on who they’re recruiting and get rid of the overwhelming guess work connected to legal recruiting. By collecting data, a law firm can get a better sense of who they’re hiring, such as trends in the prospect’s case load, whether the prospect has jumped between firms often, or whether their clients followed them as they moved. 

Law firms can also use litigation data to target clients and hire lateral attorneys likely to attract or bring those clients with them. Finally, litigation data can help weed out attorneys that may not be a good fit for your law firm by examining what practice areas and types of cases the attorney routinely handles, as well as their experience going up against difficult or otherwise formidable opposing counsel or judges. 

Significantly Reducing PACER Costs Overnight

PACER is multifaceted in the pain it inflicts on attorneys. It’s clunky and outdated, manually extracting data is a hassle, and the court data fees add up quickly. By incorporating APIs like UniCourt’s PACER API, not only will attorneys save money on PACER fees, but they’ll never have to log in to PACER again to get the data and documents they need. It’s a win-win situation for law firms.

Using UniCourt’s PACER API, attorneys can search through PACER’s full civil and criminal dataset. The search results show the cases that are already available in UniCourt, when those cases were added to our database and last updated, and the UniCourt case IDs for each case, so they can easily pull any additional data they need. 

As a bonus, users receive the data they need in a structured format that’s readily consumable by their internal applications. Rather than manually downloading the court data they need from PACER, they can get the data they need immediately, without the hassle of going through an outdated platform.

When combined with UniCourt’s Court Data APIs, the PACER API streamlines tracking litigation at scale, which also saves law firms time in their business operations. Firms can automatically track PACER cases with ease and receive alerts as soon as new docket updates are available in PACER. 

In addition to the substantial cost savings from leveraging all of the cases in UniCourt’s CrowdSourced Library™, law firms can also reduce their PACER bills significantly by taking advantage of the sophisticated algorithms we’ve developed to intelligently track PACER cases in bulk without incurring unnecessary fees. With the PACER API, firms will be able to put an end to the days of PACER paywalls and manual data extraction.

Developing Legal Analytics

Thanks to the growth of the legal technology sector, there are several commercially available legal analytics products with analytics engines that utilize complex, AI-driven assumptions to normalize data and build entity relationships. However, when out-of-the-box analytics products provide analytics outputs without the underlying data, there’s often little transparency regarding the algorithms and AI behind those analytics. 

Using out-of-the-box analytics often means that law firms have to accept the assumptions used to develop those analytics, as firms are often unable to get access to the underlying data. Unverified data can lead to bad business decisions, which is why law firms should invest in building their own analytics disciplines to avoid setting off this chain reaction.

Legal Data APIs can gather the structured, standardized and AI normalized data that law firms need to build their own legal analytics. By using APIs, law firms won’t have to manually gather data from hundreds of court portals, and can add their own layers of standardization and structure once they’ve downloaded the data they need. UniCourt provides law firms with bulk access to legal data via our APIs that’s already structured, standardized, and normalized. We also give you the raw underlying source data, so you can verify our assumptions and do even deeper levels of analytics and research. 

Building your own analytics discipline also allows for greater complexity in data sets through data layering. Law firms that invest the time to develop their own analytics disciplines greatly benefit from layering their internal data, such as financial data and other KPIs, with outside sources of data like litigation data to develop insights that out of the box analytics solutions simply cannot accommodate. Through leveraging APIs, law firms can have analytics tailored to their needs and avoid trust issues from unverified data.

Take a Leap Forward with Legal Data APIs

Legal Data APIs streamline litigation management, provide better ways to access structured and normalized data, compliment business development initiatives, significantly reduce PACER costs, and help firms build their own legal analytics. The integration of APIs into law firms has created endless possibilities for how to better manage the day-to-day tasks of running a law firm, and make them more proactive and profitable.

APIs help law firms take a leap forward by accessing structured, standardized data from the start. They do away with tedious tasks, so you can get a head start on more important things, like creative thinking and giving your clients the best, high-quality service possible. The countless benefits of using APIs are transforming the way law firms do business, and the number of ways they are being utilized will only continue to expand as the legal industry goes digital.