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Big data’s effect on the practice of law

I had the pleasure of joining my first Los Angeles Legal Innovations/ Legal Hacking Meetup group last Monday, January 27th. It was held at IndieDesk, which is a co-working space located downtown on Broadway, between 8th and 9th street.  The speaker, Adam Long from Praedicat  Inc., discussed the effect of big data on the legal field.  The first question that popped into my head was: What is big data? Adam mentioned that there is really no standard definition for big data; however, a simplified definition is: “high volumes of data that cannot be analyzed by traditional ways or tools.”  The collection of big data can predict future events, upcoming trends, and patterns within the legal field. Adam gave us four examples of how big data impacts law-practice: eDiscovery, legal spending management, litigation management and risk management.

eDiscovery is one of the most popular ways to analyze big data in the law.  eDiscovery uses “electronics” to identify, collect, and produce anything for the legal case that was electronically stored, e.g. emails, documents, social media posts, etc. By using algorithms and other pattern recognition technology to sift through high volumes of electronic data, one can potentially discover much needed evidence and material.  eDiscovery has become more and more necessary since a lot of our data is stored electronically.

A smaller niche that involves big data in law is legal spending management.   Adam mentioned that for 2000 years attorneys have charged an hourly rate and presented a standard written bill. Now with big data analysis, all electronic invoices can be analyzed.  The ability to see spending patterns such as how much it really cost to finish a project or case is ground breaking in terms of controlling costs within a firm. Another way the analytics of big data is manifested in legal spending management is in the formation of companies like Sky Analytics , who collects firm’s invoices and then processes them so firms have a benchmark on their spending versus other firms spending. The analyzing of spending trends, per Adam, can assist firms in deciding who to work with and guide decision making on which cases a firm should take.

Litigation management is another area in which big data analysis is making a difference. Big data analytics are helping to predict results on cases by showing how a judge rules in different types of cases, for example. With this cutting-edge tool, attorneys can predict outcomes by studying historical data.  Adam mentioned a company called Lex Machina , which is a big-data firm that dig ups information from litigation history, helps clients figure out what it means and then helps with strategy on the case. Adam reminded us that 95% of litigation occurs in state courts and big data analytics can directly impact many of those cases with faster and more
efficient settlements.

Lastly, we learned how big data is changing the landscape of risk management.  There are companies, like Praedicat  Inc., that can foresee litigation before it actually occurs, by tracking, or example, the use of dangerous chemicals.  This chess game, as Adam referred to it, uses analytics on bio-medical literature to see potential harm, figure out who the potential clients might be, and then finally determining who makes and sells these potentially dangerous products.  Having all the data pieces can make a huge difference on risk management, he said.

My takeaway from the night was that big data has a much bigger impact on legal practice than I could have imagined!.  The ability to analyze high volumes of data to find certain words in a document, to determine what the average cost of lawyers working on a specific type of case might be and to predict how judges may rule can even prevent litigation altogether.  What an amazingly powerful tool for the law firm!

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