If you need it, build it. We needed help. And we saw an opportunity. So we took action, and now have another business as a result. I’ll explain. The need was simple. Because of our work with investors interested in understanding how patent litigation events impact on their investments, we found ourselves needing to monitor many active patent cases, in addition to the cases we were litigating ourselves. At one point, we considered hiring an intern to help with this specific task, at least during the trading day. But we quickly realized that solving this problem required a software-based solution. So we set out to build one. We looked for something available that would do the job, and failed to find anything useful.
Thanks in no small measure to the talent of our programmer, what we built worked. We were able to get automated alerts of new docket entries and opinions directly to our email. And we could do so for multiple cases, alleviating the concern that we would miss an important opinion. Because our clients tend to have sizable investments, there is a premium placed on our ability to let them know of litigation events quickly and to interpret those events for them, so that they could protect their positions or initiate new ones, based on the recently released publicly available information. As a fail-safe, we began having the alerts sent directly to subscribers of our consulting services. And now we have decided to offer it publicly (www.litigationalpha.com) to fellow lawyers, retail investors, and whoever else can benefit from automated alerts generated based off District Courts docket entries and opinions….
Right now the service works with all of the District Courts, and we are working on solutions for appellate courts and other tribunals, based on customer demand. In addition to our law firm and consulting business, we have also become a software start-up company. The experience has provided us a chance to view the legal world from a client’s perspective.
Litigation Alpha would have come in handy for me while I was in Biglaw. For example, I would sometimes be asked to help provide “monitoring” on some ongoing patent case involving competitors of our client. Or I would be handling the defense of a litigation brought by a patent troll, where there were other overlapping litigations involving different parties but the same patent. For those and similar engagements, I needed to remember to check the dockets of the cases I was “tracking,” despite being busy on other ongoing projects simultaneously. Because I was diligent, I don’t recall ever being too late or “missing” something important — but I very easily could have. Having a software-based “assistant” to get me docket entries a short time after they were released would have been helpful, even as a form of insurance, so that I would not miss something while tied up doing something else, like a deposition.
To be honest, we use Litigation Alpha in other ways to help our legal practice. It is an easy way to keep track of what opposing counsel is doing in other active cases they have. Nice to have insight into their current litigation tactics, and how they are dealing with legal issues that may affect our case against them. Any legal edge we can get for our clients we will use. And while we might not be inclined or remember to check the dockets in our opposing counsel’s other cases ourselves, having a tool that we can set and forget about to do it for us makes doing so easier.
I can also see a point in the future, when our caseload expands, when I will use Litigation Alpha as a way of keeping track of events in cases being run by Serge and Zach. Very much like a practice group leader or a marketing department would in Biglaw, only they usually need to rely on their partners to keep them apprised of developments. That is usually a hit-or-miss proposition.
Ultimately, we all want actionable information, and we have gotten used to having that information fed to us — whether it is weather, traffic information, sports scores via Google Now, or automatic alerts of litigation events. Because of Biglaw’s immense resources, firms sign up to all kinds of research services, especially if marketing person or a rainmaker wants access to something. But there is less of a push within Biglaw to create solutions, especially for public consumption. In fact, many Biglaw firms lag behind the sophisticated legal departments at some of their own clients, at least when it comes to deploying time-saving, software-based solutions to common workflow issues. That will continue as long as Biglaw continues to find willing customers that enjoy paying exorbitant hourly rates for time-consuming tasks that in other industries would have been automated long ago.
Ultimately, and unlike Biglaw, our boutique did not have the luxury of relying on manpower to handle litigation tracking across multiple cases. So we came up with a solution — one that works for us and happens to have utility for others, whether they be investors, litigators, or someone interested in what is going on in a particular District Court case. As a patent lawyer, I am forced to employ the old saying “necessity is the mother of invention” on occasion. And it is nice to be able to say that my partners and I have created something, while experiencing a taste of what running a start-up tech business is like. In that regard, our new business is already a success.
Gaston Kroub lives in Brooklyn and is a founding partner of Kroub, Silbersher & Kolmykov PLLC, an intellectual property litigation boutique. The firm’s practice focuses on intellectual property litigation and related counseling, with a strong focus on patent matters. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @gkroub.