Predicting and understanding future government regulatory action

Listen to Robert Dessau, CEO of voxgov, speak.

What is voxgov

Voxgov is a technology company founded by Robert Dessau that aggregates government data (8,500 sources) and then provides users with filters so they can quickly sift through the data to find relevant information.

Why was voxgov founded?

Robert founded the company after having run a consulting business that helped Australian companies compete for bids for US government contracts. In helping these companies, Robert realized that being able to access and understand pre-legislative government materials enabled him to better predict future government actions, thereby giving his clients a competitive edge.

Robert then realized that this government information was of great potential use to a variety of other actors, including law firms, and founded voxgov to provide that access.

Why use voxgov at a law firm?

Voxgov would be a useful service for lobbyists and government-affairs lawyers, general counsel, and any lawyer with signifiant need to track government activity on specific topics across a range of sources and in real time.” Robert Ambrogi, Law Sites blog.

Use case 1:

Law Firm Z has a large Financial Services practice.

The firm needs to know about know every mention of Dodd-Frank by the U.S. Federal government in next to real-time due to the nightmare of regulatory compliance requirements for domestic and foreign financial institutions introduced by Dodd-Frank and potentially catastrophic financial risk of non-compliance.

In fact, firms are/were paid 5 and 6 figure monthly fees to help clients to navigate their way through the regulatory minefield it presented. Just keeping track of the regulations was made even harder due to the unusually high number of authoring Executive Agencies and Offices.

In a single search on Voxgov, the user gains immediate access to:

– 23,948 matches

– by Date

– by Document type (over 30)

– by Category (15)

– by Branch of Government

– by Party

– by Source (448 Democrats; 519 Republicans; 231 Executive Agencies & Offices)

– leading keywords; names; organizations and places

In addition, there are custom views, alerts, storage, reporting and delivery options.

Select sources.

The user cares about regulatory background because . . .

Of the 23,948 mentions of Dodd-Frank in our database, 7,122 were regulatory or legislative documents. Voxgov captured an additional 16,826 other government documents referencing the subject (such as official source press releases, speeches, transcripts, blogs, articles, advisories, publications, as well as official source social media content.) These difficult to find, widely dispersed materials provide lawyers with the advantage of greater insights into the legislative and regulatory intent through access to information that otherwise goes missed.

Use case 2:

Law Firm A has a significant Advertising Law Practice.

Advertising law requires constant work to ensure existing clients are maintained and new clients are brought on-board. The firm publishes a number of different ‘promotional’ pieces via their Articles, Blogs, etc.

Using voxgov, the firm can supplement its materials with valuable timely original source on-topic insights from all branches of government that touch upon the political, policy, legislative and regulatory impact from the intersection of government and advertising, that otherwise go missed.

In doing so, they show they are listening, informed and proactive in watching over the needs of their clients.

Sample documents might include:

– ‘Lumosity to Pay $2 Million to Settle FTC Deceptive Advertising Charges for Its “Brain Training” Program’

– ‘FTC Brings Enforcement Action Against DeVryUniversity for False Advertising’

– ‘Lujan Introduces Legislation to Increase Transparency in Political Advertising’

– ‘Congressman Smith Introduces Bill to Protect Taxpayers, Stop EPA Propaganda Machine’

Chart results

Why would a user use voxgov and not Lexis or Westlaw?

Voxgov occupies a specific niche that is not the main focus of either of these products.

Legislative and regulatory documents represent just 15% of our database.

Voxgov specializes in providing the most comprehensive record of what government is saying by tracking the political, policy, legislative and regulatory conversation from all branches across 8,500 U.S. Federal government sources.

Voxgov visits over 15,000 unique .gov web destinations multiple times daily in search of over 50 types of documents containing news, media and information that informs users about who in government is saying what on any subject at any time. By bringing order to the widely dispersed sources of government information, users become and remain well informed and are better placed to manage risk and make decisions for the benefit and well-being of their clients.

Understanding big data

Before trying to access and use government data, we should take a step back and try and understand it.

First, what are we talking about when we say “big data”? 

A popular term used to describe the exponential growth and availability of data, both structured and unstructured.  Ie, there’s lots of it, it moves very quickly, it’s in lots of formats, and normalizing it so we can understand it is very complex.

Jean O’Grady.

Big data slides.

Next, what is the difference between structured and unstructured data?

Bob Ambrogi provided the overview here. Listen.

I summarize below.

What is unstructured data?

  • Origin: comes from a broad range of different sources.
  • Challenge: Curation. Pulling the data together and then relating the data to a particular research question.
  • Example: legislative and pre-legislative materials
  • Company: voxgov aggregates data from a variety of sources, and then provides tools to make that data understandable and useful.

What is structured data?

  • Origin: Exists in a structured database collection.
  • Challenge: The structure itself will create limitations on the usefulness and accessibility.
  • Example: Pacer is a key example of a database where the structure provides a degree of usefulness but also limits usefulness.
  • Example: PacerPro provides new access to PACER data along with tools to make that PACER data more useful.

Need to tap unstructured government data to understand legislative or regulatory intent? Join us tomorrow to learn about  concrete tools provided by voxgov that give you a competitive edge.

Why does new access to new government data matter?

For Jean O’Grady, her passion came from two experiences early in her career. 

  • “You have no idea how much money I just saved my client because I knew that regulation was in the pipeline.”
  • “My client just told me about X . . . your job is to make sure that never happens again.”


Why else should we care? According to the speakers, the main benefits are:

  • Making better, more informed decisions regarding our cases, clients, and firm.
  • Improving efficiency.
  • Reducing exposure to risk.

What’s one new tool that Jean O’Grady highlighted as one that can help us make more informed decisions?

Fastcase’s visual timelines.

Ed Walters of Fastcase comments:

The Interactive Timeline goes beyond a text-based list of search results, to a 4D map of search results, so you can see at a glance what’s most important to you, and know when to stop reading.  We’ve gotten so used to text-based search results that we don’t even realize what a terrible tool that is for finding what’s important.  Each result looks like the others, and we can’t tell the difference without reading them all.  In the modern era, no client should ever pay for a lawyer to read all results, or to risk missing the important cases.  Data visualization makes the winners jump out of the pack — a killer app for lawyers (and the clients who pay them).

View an example Fastcase timeline here.

Join us tomorrow to learn what people mean by the terms “structured” and “unstructured” data, and how tools like voxgov can help you better predict future government action.

Mining Gold: Highlights

On February 17th, PacerPro hosted a panelist discussion with Jean O’Grady, head librarian at DLA Piper, Lucy Curci-Gonzalez, executive director at NYLI, Gavin McGrane, CEO and co-founder of PacerPro, and Robert Dessau, CEO and founder of voxgov.

The session was moderated by Bob Ambrogi.

The broad ranging conversation provided valuable insight on a number of important questions, including:

  • Why are new tools and new sources of government data important to legal teams?
  • What are the primary challenges in accessing government data?
  • 10 tools that provide new insights into government data

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be releasing blog posts summarizing the panelists’ thoughts on each of these topics, along with links to relevant sections of the recording and/or slides and images, as appropriate.

Specific use cases will be provided as possible, so that followers can better understand when it’s appropriate to use which tool.

Tools covered include PacerPro, voxgov, NYLI, Manzama, FastCase, Lex Machina, Ravel Law, UELMA, and more.

We invite your constructive comments on these posts – and on the products. For example, we’d love to know what’s working for you, what isn’t, and where would you like to see development.

Upcoming Panel: Mining Gold From Government Data

February 17th, 12:30pm – 1:30pm EST

New technologies are making new sources of government data – including key information about government regulations, judges, litigants and attorneys – available.

But new technology comes with new challenges – and data without organization distracts more than it informs.

Join us as leading experts discuss three new tools opening new windows into government information – and how you and your firm can be a more intelligent consumer of legal technology.

Log-in information: contact

Bob Ambrogi, J.D., nationally recognized and award winning legal technology expert

Jean O’Grady, J.D., M.L.S., Director of Research Services and Libraries at DLA Piper, Blog Dewey B Strategic voted “Best Legal Research/Writing Blog in ABA Magazine Blawg 100 Poll”

Lucy Curci-Gonzalez, M.L.S., Executive Director at New York Law Institute

Gavin McGrane, J.D., co-founder and CEO of PacerPro

Robert Dessau, founder and CEO of voxgov

PacerPro releases Litigant Profiler; Arnold & Porter head librarian comments

February 9th, 2016
PacerPro Launches Litigant Profiler to Profile Litigants —
Analyzes Litigation Activity to Provide Competitive and Strategic Intelligence

PacerPro, the smarter way to use PACER, today announced the launch of its Litigant Profiler, a tool that provides a 360-degree view of litigation activity by companies, individuals and the lawyers who represent them. By tapping directly into PACER’s Case Locator system in real- time, the Litigant Profiler provides competitive and strategic intelligence that is not only thorough, but also up to the moment. Users are able to quickly and cost-effectively understand the litigation landscape thanks to PacerPro’s data visualizations and robust filtering tools.

Access to substantive documents, as well as the individual dockets sheets, is just a click away.

The Director of Library Services at Arnold & Porter, Jim Shelar, reports:

We tested PacerPro’s litigant profiler, which leverages PACER’s case locator service, against other legal search services we have (Lexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg, Courthouse news, etc.) and found that PacerPro retrieved more cases than any of the other services. The searching is much more accurate than the others and offers superior filtering capabilities as well.

Business Research Librarian Cheryl Halvorsen at Blank Rome reports:

I tested PacerPro’s service right after using another similar product. PacerPro brought back cases the other product missed.

John Digilio, National Library Manager at Reed Smith, comments:

With a few simple clicks, researchers can quickly and almost effortlessly generate a nationwide look at any party’s litigation profile. . . This is hot functionality, folks. Think of the time you just saved on having to compile that list yourselves!

Richard Reiben, who joined the PacerPro sales team after 32 years West/Thompson Reuters, comments:

The big players provide a lot of great functionality – but, no one can do everything. That’s where we come in, providing unique, high quality tools that effectively address the widely acknowledged pain points caused by working with PACER.
Interested parties are invited to contact Anna McGrane, head of sales, ( to try the new feature out for free.

“Why Have Leading Law Firms Turned To PacerPro?” hint: CUT PACER FEES BY 30%…ELIMINATE OVERHEAD…BROAD ADOPTION.

Why Use PacerPro? This was the topic of a recent, hour- long panel moderated by legal technology writer Bob Ambrogi and comprised of Quinn Emanuel’s library director, Schulte Roth’s managing clerk, and a senior legal secretary at Susman Godfrey. Highlights follow. The full broadcast is available here.

Reduce PACER Fees

Mr. Ambrogi: Dale, you’re a library director at Quinn Emanuel. What got you interested in PacerPro?

Mr. Jachlewski: Cost savings. That was the first thing that appealed to me, and I took it to my COO, and it’s sorta like pulling teeth to get them to approve new subscriptions. So the big selling point for my boss was cost savings.

Mr. Ambrogi: What have you seen in terms of the cost issue?

Mr. Jachlewski: About 25 to 30 percent…I took a look at the bills, and [previously] we did have those multiple downloads.

Dale Jachlewski, Quinn Emanuel. LISTEN.

Save Time

“If you have never tried to download 44 exhibits plus a main document, you just haven’t lived yet. It can take forever. And because we have some heavy rainmakers here who have lots of cases there are some secretaries who bog down all day with ECFs. We actually have administrative assistants here who spend a lot of their day doing nothing but downloading ECFs, changing the name, putting them back in an email, and sending them back to the secretary [for distribution to the trial team]. [With PacerPro] that has been virtually eliminated.”

Peggy Wallace, Susman GodfreyLISTEN.

Improve Workflow

“I had an e-filing a couple weeks ago, it was late at night, it was a little before midnight, we had a deadline. I texted [the partner] once I had e-filed the document, and I’m like, ‘did you get the PacerPro hit?’ and he was like, ‘yes, it’s awesome.’”

Evan Melluzzo, Schulte Roth. LISTEN.

Keep the whole office happy

“My boss is happy, which is good. The attorneys love the ECF alerts and the tracking. And the paralegals love the bulk download. I haven’t had any negative feedback at all. I mean literally, nobody. People want to buy drinks for Gavin when he’s in town.”

“We’re pretty happy with it. It’s like, where have you been all our lives?”

Dale Jachlewski, Quinn Emanuel. LISTEN.

New Features: Batch Downloads, Re-order Docket, Print Docket, Search History

We’ve been hard at work implementing some of the most requested features on PacerPro. Together, we believe these new features help make our tool absolutely indispensable in the course of managing federal district cases.

Batch downloads

Downloading and labeling PACER documents quickly becomes time-consuming drudge work when you need to download more than one document. We’ve solved that problem by allowing you to download one or more docket entries simultaneously and by providing a sensible labeling convention automatically. Try it out!


Re-Ordering your Docket Entry Display

PACER provides their docket entries oldest-to-newest by default, which can be great for understanding the beginning, middle and end of case you’re new to. But for those of us staying on top of active cases we need just the opposite–the latest results right at the top. Now, with a single click of the order link, you can view entries whichever way you prefer.

Printable Dockets
In the context of a legal team, support staff are often called on by attorneys to “print” the docket. To facilitate this common task, we’ve added a simple “Print” button at the top of the case page. Clicking the print button will generate a facsimile of the existing PacerPro docket, including all of the biographical information that sits at the top of your standard PACER docket report.


Search History

When you’re in research mode, every inquiry matters, even the ones that produce no results. You want to keep track of the ground you’ve covered, later be able to find the result sets that proved to be such a goldmine, and easily re-run searches when you suspect there may be new results. PacerPro’s new Search History feature makes all this possible, and more. Not only do we provide you a list of all the searches you conduct with an indication of the number of results they produced, but we let you print them for internal tracking and sharing.

Go ahead and give our new features a try. We’re sure you’ll love them as much as we do.

As ABA Journal said in a glowing review of the service, “By providing a modern interface with enhanced functionality, PacerPro makes PACER easier to use. With no cost to sign up, why access PACER any other way?”

It Gets Better

It’s easy to forget that only a decade ago people who touched federal court cases lived out of boxes. Boxes on desks, on the floor, in the car. Boxes filled with files, filled with reams of pages. Pages that needed our constant attention  to keep them up-to-date, in order, complete.

By 2007 the government was approaching its goal of putting 100% of new federal case documents online through PACER–Public Access Court Electronic Records. Suddenly banker boxes filled with documents started to seem anachronistic. Relics from another time. It’s not like the mountains of printed documents disappeared, but more of our real activity was spent managing the digital versions. Not only could we could find out if opposing parties filed something moments after it happened, we could pull the document seconds later–no driving down to the courthouse after a sleepless night of wondering what had been filed.

Since then the entire legal industry has gotten quite comfortable with the benefits of the digital age. The only problem is, as the rest of the business world has seen increasingly sophisticated tools for accessing and navigating high volumes of online data,  legal professionals may as well be living in 2007. PACER’s antiquated interface and paywall, which was behind the times even back in 2007, has proved to be a massive barrier to realizing the true potential of online access to all court records.

So that’s why we’re here. We are lawyers, technologists and designers creating a Web platform that radically improves how diverse legal teams access the most critical information to their success–real-time court records, and the related data that provides context. PacerPro makes finding and tracking case data as effortless as using Google. It’s always up-to-date, easy to use and, amazingly, gets cheaper the more that people use it.

We’ll be talking more about how it works on this blog, and our view on how the legal space is being transformed by technology. Join us for what promises to be a fantastic adventure.