Over the course of the next several years I predict that many law firms will begin hiring data scientists. In my previous post I discussed how our current data explosion threatens experts at law firms but could yield vast opportunities. Recently Robin Grosset, Distinguished Engineer and Lead Architect at IBM Watson Analytics, described the importance of having a data scientist in your business. Underlining this point, he stated that in the United States there will be three-times the positions available in this field than can be filled.
How firms turn the big data challenge into opportunity
Why should law firms invest in a data scientist? Firms sit atop of massive quantities of very important specialized and typically siloed data. Grosset mentioned that a recent Mckinsey & Company report showed a firm could increase its operating margins by 60% by using the data they have currently. With the exponential growth of data, law firms will need to decipher it into understandable bits so they can make actionable decisions and find opportunity.
How could this be accomplished? In the past we know that eDiscovery practices utilized computer learning and analytics to create efficiency for large cases. As law firms continue to utilize flat fees as they seek out business, they will increasingly need to take advantage of analytics-based tools with a layer of human interaction. The human interaction is a piece that allows you, the expert, to ask simple or insightful questions for which the tool will serve up answers. Those intuitive results rest upon the underlining data which can be drilled into for greater understanding. The core piece to this human-level interaction is Semantic Analysis. In essence it adds meaning to data. That is, it creates data clues like data type, patterns, range density, sample values, and correlations. You essentially have a massive set of rules that are bundled together and sift through the data, eventually learning on its own and creating new interpretations of what lies within the data.
Why would a law firm use this? Business development, client retention, analysis of lawyer productivity, assessing resource allocation and a myriad of other untapped areas will be explored using a data scientist. With the ability to process massive quantities of information and find the white space, real opportunity will be found by those that go down this road. In fact, the analysis that IBM Watson puts forth states that most firms estimate that they only analyze 12% of their data currently and that 88% is left on the on the dark-grained, bamboo-laden law firm floor.
Ultimately, the exponential growth of data is currently creating challenges for some law firms. What will be fascinating over the years ahead is who will seize on this evolving opportunity and how will they approach it.