Michael Sander, the founder of Docket Alarm, a product that mines federal and state court dockets to provide litigation alerts and case analytics, has left the company, seven months after its acquisition by legal research company vLex in April.
In a Nov. 22 email to vLex staff, Sander said he is taking “a short breather” and plans to “re-emerge within the industry continuing to innovate with strong ties to all the folks here at vLex under the same mission.”
Sander told me that he will continue collaborating with the vLex team and advising on the future of Docket Alarm, but that he is ready for a new career challenge. He said he has plans — as yet undisclosed — to launch a new venture.
“I am ready for the next stage of my entrepreneurial journey, which started independently, then acquired by Fastcase, and now with vLex,” he said. “I’ve had frank conversations with so many legal professionals: judges, arbitrators, attorneys, librarians, paralegals, and those serving them — there are so many pain-points in legal, where simple tech is well poised to help.”
vLex has named Daniel Ivtsan as the new head of product for Docket Alarm. Ivtsan will join vLex from court data and analytics company UniCourt, where he has been VP of product since July 2022. Previously, he was chief product officer at legal analytics company Gavelytics, which shut down in June 2022.
Founded Docket Alarm in 2012
Sander was still working as an intellectual property associate in New York when he founded Docket Alarm in 2012. He initially focused on federal court dockets, but then began expanding to cover state court dockets as well.
In those beginning years, he built up the company and the product virtually single-handedly, directly building more than 60 of the data connectors Docket Alarm still uses today, he told me.
After his company’s 2018 acquisition by Fastcase, Sander held the position of vice president of analytics.
Last January, Docket Alarm was one of the first products to incorporate the GPT-3 generative AI technology, using it to allow legal professionals to see summaries of court filings without having to open the filing.
At the time of the vLex-Fastcase merger, Docket Alarm’s integration of generative AI was touted as key to the merged company’s future development of tools using large language models.
In an email Sander sent to vLex staff on Nov. 22, he said that it was his last day at the company. Here is his entire email:
“My last day running Docket Alarm will be today. It’s been more than a decade since founding Docket Alarm, we’ve transformed it into a litigation platform used daily by thousands of attorneys across biglaw and small firms alike. Leaving brings a mix of emotions, pride among them.
“Docket Alarm has innovated in three key areas: content, analysis, and workflow. For content, our team of experts now collect more records than anyone, over 350,000 U.S. legal dockets and documents daily, with analysis tied deeply into attorney workflows.
“And … sales. Over the years, we’ve collected much of the AMLaw (and me, over 2 dozen firm mugs), but I was at the dinner table with my Mom when I got an email confirming Docket Alarm’s first major law firm client. In 2019, Fastcase secured its first major enterprise deal and we knew we had a winning repeatable model. In 2021, we launched our most successful ILTA and closed so many, with Damien amplifying our patent-pending pleading tags, and setting industry standards. When our biggest firm hit 1000 users, Docket Alarm was a sure bet.
“I entrusted Docket Alarm to Luis, Ed, Phil, and Angel’s leadership, and with Oakley’s backing, the company has a bright future.
“So what’s next? Today is the last day, but I will remain available, scope tbd. I expect to take a short breather, and re-emerge within the industry continuing to innovate with strong ties to all the folks here at vLex under the same mission, spreading access to truth, improving dispute resolution, and promoting justice.”
Sander told me that he is extremely proud of what he built with Docket Alarm.
“Today, Docket Alarm’s scale is unmatched, and has innovated in key areas such as court records retrieval, legal text analysis and analytics, and workflow ease-of-use,” he said. “Thousands of attorneys use it every day. So, yup, I’m proud of it, and excited that vLex wants to invest deeply in the platform.”
Although Sander is not yet revealing what he will do next, he offered a preview.
“While I am not yet ready to announce my new banner, two developments excite me particularly: AI and standardization. I was early in incorporating GPT-4 into a litigation workflow platform and am directly involved building cross-industry SALI standards. These developments are creating a perfect storm of innovation opportunity in legal tech.”
vLex Doubling Down on Docket Alarm
Ed Walters, chief strategy officer at vLex and cofounder and former CEO of Fastcase, said that Sander’s departure is “a very friendly parting of the ways and that the vLex team is proud of everything he accomplished with Docket Alarm.
“He is a very unique entrepreneur who built the leading docket analytics tool,” Walters said. “I’ve know a lot of legal tech entrepreneurs and he’s as good as any of them.”
Walters said that vLex will be doubling down over the next year on its investment in Docket Alarm to even more rapidly scale the product and its content and to globalize it.
Walters said Ivtsan will play a key role in leading this next phase of development. “He’s a veteran in the industry, and he will bring a really interesting breadth of experience to the team.”