We use cookies to collect and analyse information on site performance and usage to improve and customise your experience, where applicable. View our Cookies Policy. Click Accept and continue to use our website or Manage to review and update your preferences.

Legal intelligence platform Courtsdesk knows a writ has been issued even before the recipient is notified
Courtsdesk founder former investigative journalist Enda Leahy

05 Mar 2018 / Innovation Print

Are you being served?

Courtsdesk, the legal intelligence platform, has signed up top four firm McCann FitzGerald as a client, after a lengthy lead-in on a trial basis.

The paid-for service pulls together court data in a searchable and accessible format. Users can search by plaintiff or defendant, from every court sitting in the country and the site lists every case currently running in court.

Co-founder Enda Leahy is a former investigative journalist used to searching through datasets for relevant information. He realised there was a gap in the market for a platform that integrated litigation information with data from the Companies Registration Office.

Integrated CRO search

There is a full CRO search integrated into Courtsdesk. By having the CRO cross-referenced, it’s a lot quicker and easier to find court cases involving companies,” he says.

 We are the first in the world to have integrated a company search with a litigation search. On the CRO company profile page you can access to directors and financials and documents like annual returns. You also have immediate cross-reference search of that company in the High Court and we’ll later be adding the Circuit Court.” says Leahy.

The national insolvency registers will also be integrated over time since a lot of insolvency cases go through the Circuit Court. Having all the relevant searches in the one place will save time for users.

Interactive relationship mapping

The site also offers the popular feature of a fully interactive, clickable, visual ‘relationship mapping’ with colour-coded lines denoting links between case protagonists. Leahy describes it as ‘gamified due diligence’.

"I was news editor and deputy editor at the Mail on Sunday and in that role, I was managing teams doing investigative work so I became au fait with the limits of all the different types of searches.

“The one that always struck me as ridiculous was the courts. The High Court search was ok but the Circuit Court was literally non-existent. You can barely search the Circuit Court at all, there was no archive.

"The Chief Justice Frank Clarke and Mr Justice Peter Kelly of the High Court both have separate initiatives under way and I think we’re going to see a lot of change but they have been limited by lack of resources.”

"The platform makes data easier to find and makes it available for a broader number of research types because there are many different use cases for what goes on in the courts,” says Leahy.

“Documents that are ‘opened in court’ become public documents. But at the moment you actually have to be in court to view those documents. This should be publicly accessible information.” Court records can be downloaded as a spreadsheet from the site.

Another search type offered is user alerts relating to up to 500,000 names, and monitor for new court cases for all of those names. When an alert sounds with matches for those names, a spreadsheet can be downloaded with bill number, plaintiff, defendant, and so on.

“For any law firms that has multiple clients, there’s a time lag of up to year between when a case is initiated and when that summons is actually served.

“We are able to tell people they are being sued, even before they know themselves,” says Leahy.

Courtsdesk is modelled on the traditional naming of units in a media business and its very first navigation tool is a newsfeed. Every subscriber gets a ‘daily brief’ of new High Court cases lodged the day before, which number about 90 each day.

The names from each new case are extracted to provide a daily news service to users.

Industry knowledge

“It takes a certain amount of industry knowledge to see the gaps. In the legal profession, there’s been a huge amount of focus on precedent and legal argument. I started from the premise that I was much more interested in the protagonists than in the precedent being set,” says Leahy.

He points out to solicitors that it is very relevant to know if their client is being sued by a counter-party who has numerous Circuit Court cases on similar or related matters, which never made it into the High Court.

This information has a bearing on tactics, research, or strategy or how the case is managed.

“Once solicitors get to grips with the possibilities, it becomes a lot more interesting,” he says.

“Most have been unable to do this type of research until now.”

A search on businessman Denis O’Brien as a protagonist, for instance, reveals that he has 36 directorships, 78 shareholdings, and 183 mentions as plaintiff or defendant.

Five of the top ten law firms are using the service in some form, out of six hundred total users.

“Within the first week of trialling the service, McCann FitzGerald came back to us with some feedback after doing client due diligence. They had found nine cases on Courts.ie but they found twelve relevant on Courtsdesk, helped by extended or ‘fuzzy’ searchability.

Time-stamped billable searches, to be passed directly to the client, are also built in to the platform in the same way as billable land registry or company searches.

As well as law firms and news outlets, Leahy and his co-founder software Engineer Alan Larkin, expect to finds users who are auditors, regulators, state agencies, and financial institutions. A suite of investors has come on board and Courtsdesk has also participated in some premium accelerator programmes such as Tech Stars.

See http://www.courtsdesk.ie/ for more details


Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland