of CaseMetrix –
Exactly how do you start a legal database company?
I had no idea.
I was proofing a brief in my car at St. Pius while waiting to pick up Merricks from track practice when I received an email from a stranger named Alan Pershing. He said he had a project for me and was referred to me by an attorney named Doug Powell. We arranged to meet at Doug’s office that Friday. In the interim, I looked up Alan on the Georgia Bar site and I didn’t find him. My #1 freelance rule was that I could only assist attorneys so I was hesitant to meet with him, but I was curious and I trusted Doug. I explained the nature of my freelance Paralegal business with great pride, telling him I could only “assist him” if he had was a member of the Bar. This wasn’t a typical freelance assignment. I learned Alan had started two other database companies, Abacus Direct which went public on the NASDAQ in 1997 before being acquired by DoubleClick and ultimately Google. He then co-founded NextAction which was bought by DataLogix and ultimately acquired by Oracle. So yeah, I was interested in speaking with him about this idea to create the ultimate legal database.
Prior to our meeting, Alan was engaged in a conversation with a group of attorneys at a party who were asking the familiar “What do you think this case is worth?” questions. Being entrepreneurial, Alan said, “Don’t you have a database for that?” After bombarding Doug with questions about sources for verdict data, Doug finally told Alan he should speak with this freelance Paralegal named Kim who could probably answer his questions.
My first meeting with Alan lasted 6-½ hours. There were no bathroom or lunch breaks. We had a conference room table filled with pages from legal pads and ideas were flowing non-stop. I told him everything I knew about the databases and books I had used in the past and why I didn’t like them. Because of my defense background, I thought the national databases were just a place where plaintiff’s attorneys bragged about the big verdicts. Where were the average cases? The main thing I told him was that most cases settle, yet the old databases contain mostly verdict data. I told him we had to collect settlements from both plaintiff & defense attorneys and it was going to be difficult. At 2:30, I told him I had to leave to pick up my kids. He had to do the same and had a tee time with his son. This partnership could work.
Meeting with Attorneys
There are no words to explain the 12 to 14-hour work days that followed, the years without vacations, countless meetings with attorneys to create data collection forms, collecting data until 9:30 p.m. with Paralegals, quality controlling data on the weekends, etc. We once conducted 13 meetings in one day in Macon, GA (literally running down Mulberry Street!) and drove back to Atlanta that night because I had an 8:00 a.m. meeting in Midtown the next morning. All meetings were scheduled well in advance, confirmed the day before and the travel times between meetings were tight. We packed so many meetings into a day that I would have severe anxiety in reception areas when attorneys would keep me waiting 30 minutes. It was too common to have receptionists say, “I’m sorry. You need to understand he’s a very busy attorney and this has turned out to be a bad time. Can you just leave a brochure and he’ll call you if he’s interested?” I understand busy. I understand and respect that an attorney’s work must come first before meeting with a vendor.
It took 14 months to build our initial data resource covering most of Georgia’s 159 counties.
126 firms promised to contribute settlement and verdict data into the first Georgia database. I am eternally grateful to the 56 who kept that promise and to the many who came around later. Many attorneys graciously gave their time to participate in creating the initial data collection forms, as well as providing data. I like to give credit to the attorneys for educating us about the fields of data necessary to create the ultimate resource and for populating the database.