The legal system generates a huge and ever-increasing amount of data. Each new case brought to court (and there are 350,000 in the US alone each year) increases the body of knowledge that a lawyer has to get to grips with to do their job. Judicial ruling, precedents and interpretations of legislature all create more data and amongst it all – within witness statement, court logs and judge’s summaries – will be hidden facts and insights that could help win legal arguments.
So it is surprising that until recently there has been little innovation in the way that the legal profession uses Big Data. But some believe that is all about to change with the arrival of a new breed of data savvy lawyers and legal professionals.
The first Big Data tools to be made available to lawyers generally focused on billing, time management, marketing and customer relations functions – in line with their incursions into many other industries. Now, lawyers and those developing tools for the profession are starting to think about how this technology could be applied to the fundamental research and case preparation which is the core of their job.
We tend to think about “big data” in industries such as the stock market and large health systems. But whether we know it or not, we’re getting more and more comfortable with our own “big data” as we upload gigabytes of information to our social media feeds such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. As lawyers, we’ve operated mostly in a paper-world. While many of us are quickly transitioning to an electronic age with paperless offices, high-tech hardware and complex software applications that support client relationship management, the next step to actually look at the metadata we’ve been collecting.
Think about what the data, once analyzed, can reveal: trends in judicial decisions, credibility of expert testimony, insights into viability of cases and insights into client needs. Analytics has not traditionally been something typically valued in law firms, but the tides are rapidly changing. Not only does big data have the potential to win cases, but it can and should effect how we do business. The notion of a true marketing strategy has expanded well-beyond placing an ad in a local paper. Marketing is now an important part of a law firm’s business plan, and part of that marketing strategy necessarily includes the use of information contained within the law firm itself.
Big Data isn’t disrupting law firms, it’s improving how we as lawyers serve our clients. Because of case and document management systems, electronic records, e-filings and social media, lawyers are better positioned to quickly reach our clients, more efficiently file legal documents, and resolve disputes more effectively. We may be slightly trailing the health profession in leveraging Big Data, but many young, legal professionals are innovative, savvy, and recognize the high value of analytics and information.