Photo of Gavin McGrane by Tony Avelar.
Gavin McGrane, son of San Francisco trial lawyer William McGrane, learned very early the social value of a law degree. And when he joined his father’s civil litigation boutique, after graduating from the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific, he learned the value of efficient electronic discovery.
He also learned that working with the federal website PACER (the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system) was anything but efficient. So last year he developed PacerPro.
PacerPro logs on to PACER’s cumbersome system and for 10 cents a page, it collects and stores copies from the 94 U.S. District Court sites so they can be more easily shared with others. Moreover, PacerPro provides access to same-day filings by accessing court records directly—far faster than the 24 to 48 hours it takes for PACER to post the same files.
“Litigation records are never consumed by one person—they are digested by teams comprised of support staff, associates, partners, general counsel and clients,” says McGrane, 37. “We’re focused on trying to make the workflow a lot smoother.”
PacerPro’s basic services are now free. In January, McGrane stopped charging the $25 monthly subscription fee to attract more users. Primary funding for the site came from Paul Locklin, McGrane’s uncle and now executive chairman at PacerPro. He is also the founder of the telephone equipment company CIDCO, which at one point was the largest Caller ID equipment provider for telephone services.
“We’re rolling out premium services over the next months that will be available to all users on a subscription basis, priced by usage level,” McGrane says when asked how the site will make money.
In October, PacerPro will begin offering what it calls “premium accounts.” For $25 a month, subscribers get unlimited downloading, case following and case updates. The site also plans to offer access to U.S. bankruptcy court filings soon. Other plans include offering technology that allows documents to sync through mobile networks, and the ability to search federal court filings by keyword.
Robin Meadow, a Los Angeles appellate lawyer, is using PacerPro to review an appeal’s trial court record.
“I think its greatest strength is going to be the ability to get information on cases you’re not handling yourself,” says the Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland partner. “If the briefs are done by good law firms, they may well be much more comprehensive and informative than decisions.”
Newton Oldfather, a San Francisco deputy city attorney who does litigation, previously designed a PACER app after discovering the federal website was difficult to access through smartphones. Now he uses PacerPro on all of his federal cases.
“So I have all my cases saved, and I can go straight to the docket on each one,” he says. “It saves me an incredible amount of time.”
The PACER site is also making some changes, according to Charles W. Hall, a spokesman with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The office did not have a comment regarding whether it saw PacerPro as a helpful tool to use with PACER.
There are plans for the federal site to release something called NextGen, Hall says, which will allow lawyers to use a single login and password for read-only PACER access, as well as filling access. The agency also plans to modernize PACER’s user interface, and it’s considering the addition of a dashboard feature that would allow users to designate specific information they want to track, like certain types of case documents.
Meanwhile, McGrane has plans for PacerPro to offer access to all 214 federal court sites. He also has his eye on state court filings. Now, McGrane says, there’s significant variation on what sort state courts offer.
“Bringing on state courts would be a social good,” he adds.