(Photo of Josh Blandi and his dog, Olivia, by Jeff Berting/ABA Journal)
As the co-founder of CountryWide Debt Relief, Josh Blandi targeted a specific group of consumers who were struggling financially amid the Great Recession but didn’t qualify for bankruptcy.
The Santa Ana, California-based company, which launched in 2008, helps them consolidate and eliminate their debt. It also assists those who are being sued by their creditors by connecting them to attorneys who can help with debt defense settlements.
Blandi, 45, who studied biology at Hawaii Pacific University before becoming an entrepreneur like his father and grandfather, realized these consumers finished their programs feeling most satisfied, and he hoped to find others facing lawsuits.
“We went to Westlaw, we went to Lexis, trying to see if we could get a feed of that type of data in a more real-time fashion,” says Blandi, who is still a CountryWide shareholder. “At that time, it really wasn’t possible. So we said, ‘You know what? We’ll start building our own system to collect this from the courts themselves.’”
This idea sparked the creation in 2014 of UniCourt, which gives law firms and businesses real-time access to court records and legal data for case research and tracking, business development, competitive intelligence and various other purposes.
To provide what’s known as Legal Data as a Service, UniCourt built a platform that collects information about cases, attorneys, law firms, parties and judges from hundreds of state and federal courts, then organizes and standardizes it. The company makes this data available for bulk download via its application programming interfaces, which allow law firms and businesses to integrate the data into their document management and workflow systems.
In addition to the legal industry, UniCourt, which operates with nearly 200 employees, offers its services to the finance, insurance, investigations and media industries and to consumers. It provides access to many court records for free online and offers monthly subscriptions starting at $49.
“One of the most surprising things about UniCourt is it’s a huge business-to-consumer platform,” says Jeff Cox, an attorney and the company’s director of content. “We get 2.5 million people per month coming to check out our free content. It’s lawyers and law firms, but it’s also consumers who need access to information.”
As UniCourt evolved, Blandi encouraged the company to spend more time developing entity normalization, which seeks to tie names in court records to real-world entities. As one example, it recognizes different spellings of an attorney’s name and connects them to the same person.
UniCourt, based in Tustin, California, also has released a second version of its APIs that enables a user to move easily between a case and analytics on connected entities. It provides access to new analytics—such as case counts by court, time period, case type, attorney, law firm, party and judge—and it introduces new search query language.
Blandi contends that if he had gone directly into tech, he might not have been as successful. “The opportunity that legal tech presented was because it was so far behind the rest of technology,” he says. “There was so much green pasture, and I still believe there is so much green pasture for people to contribute using technology within the legal sector.”
Blandi spends his free time away from electronic devices surfing, camping and enjoying the outdoors.
Sonja Ebron and Debra Slone of Courtroom5
Uzoma Orchingwa and Gabriel Saruhashi of Ameelio