• September 12, 2016

Data in the Court: Analytics and the Legal Industry

Analytics may be changing the way the legal profession operates.

Law firms are beginning to employ Big Data technology, and observers say the legal profession may never be the same. New developments in analytics help firms greatly improve research, predict whether a case is winnable, and select where and when to file a case. Analytics tools also aid firms in running their businesses by helping them set competitive fees and choose new markets for expansion.

Visionaries foresee artificial intelligence capability being added to Big Data analytics to create automated services that could someday replace attorneys and even judges. Whether society would accept such developments is uncertain, but there are plenty of Big Data technology applications making significant impacts to the practice of law today.

Law firms desperately need tools to help them pore through the vast volumes of legal data created each year. In recent years, entrepreneurs have launched start-ups such as Ravel Law that enable legal professionals to gain insights by using advanced analytical algorithms.

“Judicial ruling, precedents, and interpretations of legislature all create more data and amongst it all—within witness statements, court logs, and judge’s summaries—will be hidden facts and insights that could help win legal arguments,” writes Big Data consultant Bernard Marr in Forbes. Analytics pull valuable nuggets out of this giant data slag heap.

Predictive Insights

Advanced algorithms can predict whether a case will be successful based on analysis of outcomes of similar cases in the same jurisdiction, or even by individual judges. “The small California law firm Dummit, Buchholz & Trapp uses such technology, developed by LexisNexis, to determine in 20 minutes whether a case is worth taking on or not, instead of the standard 20 days,” according to Datafloq.

post on The Wall Street Journal website points out how firms could use Big Data to increase their chances of courtroom success through analytics. They can ask questions such as: Does the judge dismiss cases for a consistent pattern of reasoning? How do holidays affect decisions? Does the judge sentence harder at different times of the day?

Big Data analytics also speed up management tasks such as projecting case budgets based on figures from previous cases. This can produce more accurate billing projections and revenue/profit forecasts. At least one law firm has used Big Data analytics for market research. The firm analyzed its opportunity for market penetration based on the average amount of corporate law expenses in a potential new market.

Corporate clients may turn to Big Data to scrutinize their spending on legal services and how they could better allocate that money. “Clients will certainly look at measurements of success—percentage of trials won, successful outcomes in arbitration or contract negotiations,” writes Sharon D. Nelson and John W. Simek in the American Bar Association’s Law Practice magazine. “They may also evaluate the data and conclude that they can use a boutique firm in Asheville, North Carolina, for far less than a mega-firm in New York City.”

Indeed, Big Data looms large over the future of law and could profoundly alter the profession.

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