Why we Invested in Trellis Research: Bringing Tens of Millions of State Trial Court Documents Out into the Open

October 27, 2021 / Kevin Dunlap

Lawyers have a love-hate relationship with documents, not only creating an endless array of them but also perusing the millions of past files created by other lawyers and judges to build their cases and understand precedents. For better or for worse, litigators spend much of their time creating, looking for, and reviewing documents. But, still, there is much information that remains inaccessible to legal teams, locked away in disparate databases across the court system. That’s why Calibrate is thrilled to announce our participation in a $14M Series A investment in Trellis Research, the first analytics platform focusing on aggregating and analyzing data from across the US state trial court system.

Co-founded by former employment defense litigation Nicole Clark and serial tech entrepreneur Alon Shwartz, Trellis has built an AI-driven platform to structure data from over 90 million documents previously trapped in thousands of individual county court websites, and a Google-like interface that allows legal teams to search all this information to surface new insights. The state trial court system is the largest in the world, and yet it is fractured and siloed into thousands of county-based courts, making this sector ripe for ML disruption. Before Trellis, much of the data kept in county courts was inaccessible, leaving legal teams blind to much of the documentation they needed to build optimal litigation strategies. When trying to access trial data from county courts,  Nicole’s own experience as a lawyer left her frustrated, and she founded Trellis as a solution to this thorny issue.

Since its launch in 2018, thousands of legal practitioners, ranging from boutique plaintiff firms to large in-house corporate legal departments, have embraced Trellis as a part of their daily research workflow.  Using Trellis, legal teams can pull up information on a specific judge, venue, or law firm. One popular use for Trellis is for attorneys to do deep dives on the caseloads and litigation strategies of the lawyers they’re opposing. Being able to review an opposing counsel’s track record, motions filed, cases lost or won, and other information helps a legal team prepare the best possible case. Large in-house legal teams use Trellis to track the status of their entire portfolio of state court litigation through a single interface, which helps them better assess risk, see where suits are being filed against customers and competitors, hire the best-fit outside counsel, and save costs.

It’s hard to imagine that before Trellis, a single, searchable “brief bank” of state trial court data simply didn’t exist. But the reason is in large part due to the complexity of accessing and aggregating all of the data out there that was locked away in disparate databases. That’s where Trellis’ technology comes in. The company has created proprietary AI algorithms that can access and understand a wide array of court litigation data, including court venue, judge, judge's grant rate, attorney track records and trial court performance metrics, legal claims, historical verdicts, and timeframe to trial or dismissal. Trellis currently covers 362 trial courts across 12 of the most litigious states in the nation, including CA, DE, FL, IL, MA, NV, NY, PA, TX, and WA, with additional coverage of trial courts across NJ, OH, and CT to launch this quarter.  Every county covered includes 15 years of historical trial case data, verdict analysis, visualizations, and searchable filed documents.

Clearly, legal industry veterans see the value in Trellis. Alongside the venture firms that supported Trellis’ Series A financing, Headline, Calibrate Ventures, Craft Ventures, Okapi Ventures and Revel Partners, a bevy of legal-eagles also invested as angels in the round. These include Colin Stretch, former general counsel at Facebook; Julius Genachowski, former FCC Chairman; David Hantman, former head of public policy at Airbnb; and Matt Mazza, chief legal officer at AppFolio.

Calibrate is excited to partner with Nicole, Alon, and the entire Trellis team as they continue expanding their database to courts from more states. So far, Trellis has experienced exponential product-led growth, already being adopted by hundreds of legal teams through word of mouth, and we expect their customer base to accelerate in the months to come as more and more lawyers discover the powerful tool their competitors are using. Congratulations to the entire Trellis team on the new fundraise and we can’t wait to see what’s next!