In our last post, we kicked off a series on the use of data in the legal industry by covering seven ways in which litigators can use data analysis to enhance their practices. Our second installment will look at three distinct practice areas and how each can benefit from records searches.
As we previously mentioned, there are many types of records available to lawyers and law firms. The records we are going to look at relate to personal, business and alternative data. This includes personally identifiable information, such as email and physical addresses, phone numbers, business records, criminal histories and arrest records, among other data. While some of this information is publicly available, it can be difficult to validate, especially if you are relying on basic Internet searches, and some pieces have a high likelihood of changing over time, such as addresses and phone numbers.
For criminal defense attorneys, these records may come into play in a variety of use cases. For example, records related to criminal histories, including arrests and convictions, can provide critical details about your client’s background that can influence case strategy, such as whether to negotiate a plea deal or go to trial. In a criminal case, history of civil litigation and civil judgments entered against the defendant can also shed light on a defendant’s background .
Records searches can also help you identify witnesses. Data related to the defendant’s associates, relatives, former and current spouses, and former and current roommates are good starting points for selecting character witnesses. You may also be able to gain access to vehicle surveillance information that can provide license plate data for cars that were present at the scene of a crime.
Criminal defense attorneys can use records to their advantage in other ways, including jury selection and discrediting prosecution witnesses. We’ll go into greater depth about how records can be used in criminal cases in a future post.
Divorce attorneys can leverage a variety of records to gain insights about a client’s marriage, as well as personal details about the client and the client’s soon-to-be-former spouse. For example, if a lawyer is trying to understand the asset profile of the relationship, they can conduct a search of property owned jointly and separately by members of the marriage. Such searches can return properties currently owned and formerly owned as well as the assessed values of those properties. Records can also reveal information about a client’s or spouse’s debt, including liens, foreclosures and bankruptcies. If the client or the spouse has any business interests, records can reveal that as well, along with business associates, assets and debts.
Additional data that could be relevant includes criminal histories of the client and the spouse, records related to citizenship, aliases, existence of other marriages and the names and contact information of family members. In a future post, we’ll further explore ways in which divorce attorneys can use records to enhance their practices.
Estate planning attorneys
Sometimes clients don’t know the full extent of their assets, which can present a problem for estate planning attorneys. Fortunately, records searches can reveal assets that clients and family members might not be aware of, including business assets and real property.
Assets aren’t the only information that might be unknown to estate planning attorneys. Current locations of named heirs may be difficult to track down. Through records searches, estate lawyers can find current and past residencies of known heirs as well as contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses. In certain circumstances, an estate planning attorney might find themselves searching for heirs that were not known to their client. A records search can help by providing information on the existence and whereabouts of more distant relatives, including second- and third-degree relatives.
As with criminal and divorce attorneys, there are additional records that are pertinent to an estate lawyer’s practice, which we’ll go into in a future post.
Start accessing records with TLOxp
Want the ability to tap into a variety of personal, business and alternative records to enhance your practice? TransUnion provides lawyers with access to billions of data points through the TLOxp online portal. With an intuitive interface, users can generate 360-degree profiles with minimum effort and time.
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