It was the famous author Anne Brontë who wrote, “all true histories contain instruction.” Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in the legal profession, and in litigation in particular. By digging out the histories relevant to your case, you can gain a significant advantage over your adversaries.
Unfortunately, digging out case histories can be incredibly time-consuming. It’s one of those tasks that, while important, is nearly impossible to get to when there are pleadings to draft, depositions to prepare for, and motions to write. The truth is, however, detailed court research can actually assist in those (and other) important case tasks.
If you’re pressed for time or aren’t quite sure where to start in doing court research, get in touch with us here at One Legal. Our research and retrieval team can get you documents from any court – state, federal, or bankruptcy.
Here are just a few of the reasons you might need professional court research or document retrieval.
#1 Find out about opposing attorneys
Whenever you start a new litigation matter, there is always that “breaking in period” with opposing counsel. They don’t know if they can trust you, you don’t know if you can trust them, and both of you are pretty sure the other one is suspicious.
Why waste time with all the guesswork? A professional court researcher will find all current and prior cases in which your opposing counsel has appeared. Then you can choose a few recent cases and study, for example, how many discovery motions she typically files, the veracity of the legal arguments in those motions, and her track record of winning those and other motions.
You can also see how she has fared in cases similar to yours, get a feel for her candor with prior opponents and courts, and gain insight as to whether she is cooperative or obstructionist. Gaining this knowledge at the outset of the case could prove invaluable as the matter progresses.
#2 Get intel on your experts
Every litigator knows that the right expert witnesses can make or break a case. Often, legal teams find success with a particular expert in a particular field and return to her time and time again. But what if you need to hire a new expert? Perhaps more importantly, what can you find out about your adversary’s experts?
By digging into experts’ prior case testimony, reports, and track record, you can learn everything you need to make crucial decisions regarding case strategy. For example, what if your opponent’s expert took the exact opposite position in a prior case? That’s great fodder for depositions and cross-examination. Likewise, when choosing a new expert, it is helpful to see how they have fared in earlier cases.
#3 Study a topic
From time to time, a novel legal issue arises that doesn’t seem to have an easy answer. Like in the middle of trial, when a critical evidentiary issue emerges that appellate courts haven’t opined on yet. In those instances, how do you get up to speed on this new concept? It is an especially daunting task when your entire team is consumed with ongoing trial preparation.
This is the perfect time to turn to a professional court researcher. Task them with searching for how the issue has been dealt with by this court in prior trials. If that doesn’t yield satisfactory results, they can check in additional courts until the desired result has been achieved. Meanwhile, your team can continue their ‘round-the-clock trial efforts.
#4 Know your judge
Every time you have a case assigned to a new judge, it’s time to do some research. You’ll want to know what types of cases she typically handles, whether she’s known to be pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant, and how tolerant she is of discovery battles. You also want to know whether she has presided over cases like yours in the past and, if so, how she ruled in them.
This is another instance where the professional court researcher can come to the rescue. They can compile all sorts of information about your judge while your team remains focused on the litigation itself.
#5 Find out about the opposing party
Most legal teams have come across a version of this scenario: you’re representing a grocery store that has been sued by a customer who slipped and fell in the produce aisle and now claims he is permanently disabled. Sometimes plaintiffs like this are legitimate, and quick settlements are appropriate. Other times, they are not.
The good news is that a professional court researcher can quickly find out whether this guy has sued other businesses in the past for the same thing. And, they can search across jurisdictions. Imagine how different your trial strategy would be if you found out your plaintiff had filed 15 prior slip-and-fall lawsuits over the past 20 years. Although this is a simple example, there are a variety of ways in which this sort of intel can steer an entire case strategy.
In litigation, you simply can’t be too prepared. By digging into the histories of parties, judges, experts, and attorneys, you’ll be able to craft a custom strategy that just might give you the winning edge. We’re here to help in that effort.