How to Improve Litigation Research with Public Records

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Litigators, also called “trial lawyers,” are attorneys that handle legal disputes between two different parties. Most of the time, these disputes end in settlement. However, if the dispute cannot be settled outside of court, litigation cases will go to court in front of a judge and jury. Whether the case ends up in court or not, one thing is absolutely certain — litigators need to perform comprehensive legal research in order to find the relevant information they need to tell a compelling story about their client that will help them win the dispute. 

There are many different steps to litigation, and each requires extensive preparation, much of which can be done with public records. Public records provide litigators with the information they need to prepare thoroughly at every step in their case and gain the upper hand. Particularly when accessed with a public records search in a public and private records database, public records are a powerful tool that every litigator should leverage. 

Using litigation research technologies with public records for discovery

Discovery is the process of exchanging information with the opposing party in a litigation case. It is considered the “pre-trial” phase, and litigators use a variety of different devices for discovery, such as requesting documents from the opposing party or composing a targeted interrogatory. It is often one of the most tedious and cumbersome parts of litigation, however, public records can make it easier. 

When litigators are able to access extensive public records for strategic litigation research, they’ll be able to build a more comprehensive profile on their opposition so they can craft a strong strategy for winning and know exactly what they need or what to ask for from their client. And in some instances, litigators can gather much of the important information they need from the opposition in public records, allowing them to avoid having to request and wait for documents altogether. 

One situation in which using public records could be particularly helpful in discovery is if a litigator works in personal injury law and learns, through searching public criminal records in a personal injury law software, that the opposition has had similar accidents or past drug convictions that could have contributed to an accident. This would allow the litigator to make more targeted interrogatories or requests for production during discovery that would cast greater doubt on the opposition’s argument. Or, a litigator working on family law investigations may be able to gather public records that show the opposing party has side jobs that boost their income, allowing the lawyer to properly petition the court for records or child support adjustments.

  • Discovery is a pre-trial phase in litigation in which litigators perform research on the documents and information they need and request documents from the opposing counsel or create questions for depositions.
  • Public records can help litigators with the discovery process by helping them get documents without requesting them from the opposition and determining exactly what documents or answers they do need from the opposition.
  • Public records, like criminal records and debt records, can help litigators learn more about the opposing party’s criminal and financial history so they can prepare questions for court and decide what outcome to pursue.

Perform strategic litigation research for depositions with public records

Depositions are sworn, oral testimonies of witnesses that can be used as evidence in court, or for discovery purposes. Preparation is key in the deposition phase — litigators will want to know, to their best of their ability, everything of importance about their client and the experts they bring in so they can know what kind of questions their client and any experts they bring in will be asked during a deposition, and in turn adequately prepare them for those questions. Similarly, they’ll want a complete picture of their opposition and their opposition’s experts so they can know how to properly attack the opposition with targeted questions that poke holes in their argument.

Public records can help with both by giving you a more complete profile on anyone that is giving a deposition. This may include criminal records, asset records, workplace records, or social media evidence that may be relevant to the case. 

Litigators handling civil litigation will want to know any risky activities or illicit behavior their client partook in so they can prepare their client for tough questions, and this information can be found with both a social media search and a criminal records search. A personal injury lawyer may use public records to cast doubt on the credibility of an expert witness, as well as gather information from business records and criminal records that show civil issues or criminal history and may raise questions about their character.

  • For the deposition phase, litigators will want to perform a deep dive on both their client and their opposition’s background to properly prepare their client for questioning and determine what questions to ask the opposition.
  • Public records can paint a picture of someone’s character and credibility, which can be useful for determining a strategy for both asking questions and preparing your client or witnesses for questions.
  • Social media activity, criminal records, asset records, and workplace records can all all provide information that may be useful to address in court.

Get public records with litigation research technologies to determine settlement strategy

Most litigation cases are settled outside of court in settlement, which is when the two opposing parties come to a mutual agreement about the outcome of the dispute and how it should be handled. That being said, though it is done outside of court and in a mutual agreement, litigators will want to negotiate the best possible settlement for their client, and that means they need to know exactly who to go after for recovery and how much.

Public records are a great resource for determining the best strategy for settlement. For example, if you’re trying to get a settlement for your client and you need to go after other sources of recovery, such as by piercing the corporate veil, you can perform a corporate asset search and business records records to gather an entire picture of the business’s financial history and current financial health, which can help you decide exactly how who to go after in the business and for how much.

If you’re handling a family law case, searching property records and asset records can reveal if the opponent has more assets than they’re letting on or if they did something shady with assets, like buying a condo for their mistress, which can help you get your client get a more fair settlement and avoid them getting less divorce settlement than they’re actually owed.

  • Determining the best strategy for settlement requires knowing what’s at stake and what the best possible outcome for your client could be. 
  • A business records search, like a Business Credit Report, will help you get a full picture of a business’s financial situation so you can pierce the corporate veil or locate other sources of recovery.
  • In a family law case, an asset search can uncover hidden asset records so you can bring them to the table and boost the chances of getting a fair settlement for your client.

Prepare for trial using public records 

When litigation cases aren’t able to be settled outside of court, they’ll go to trial. Though this isn’t as common as settlement, litigators must still be prepared for a case to get to this point and ready to argue for their client in the courtroom. The preparation involved in going to trail is extremely extensive, such as doing your due diligence research on jurors and getting ready for cross-examinations, and accessing public records is one of the best ways to get prepared and avoid surprises in the courtroom.

Public records can help you vet jurors so you can choose ones that will be likely view your argument more favorably. For example, if your client is suing a business and a juror has workplace records that show a bias towards this industry or specific business, you likely will not want to select them as a juror. You can also search business records and criminal records to find evidence of dishonesty or legal issues in the past, like a conviction of fraud, that may be used to impeach a witness’s credibility. 

Performing a social media search in a public record database can also be useful for bringing in outside evidence that wasn’t brought in during discovery. For example, if the opposition is suing your client in a personal injury case claiming they were injured in an accident but recently posted a photo in which they were engaging in strenuous physical activity, you could bring in this evidence to court, surprise the opposition, and gain the upperhand. 

  • Should a case go to trial, you’ll want to properly prepare by vetting the jurors and getting your client and witnesses ready for cross-examination.
  • Public records like social media activity, workplace records, and criminal records, can all help you gain insight into jurors, witnesses, and clients.
  • These records can be used to help determine which jury members to select, impeach a witness’s credibility, and bring in new evidence that wasn’t found during discovery.

Litigators have been using public records for decades to perform the legal research, but gathering public records was traditionally a tedious and difficult task. Now, litigators can use a cloud-based litigation software for attorneys like Tracers to access comprehensive records from any device, at any time. In Tracers, you can quickly access over 42 billion public and private records, such as criminal records, asset records, business records, social media activity, and more, allowing you to build the strongest argument possible, avoid any surprises, and win the case for your client. Get started with Tracers today to see the difference a public and private records database can make in litigation.