FORUM MAGAZINE EXCLUSIVE: Big Data Law — A Profession Partners with Technology to Discover Patterns in the Law

Topics: Data Analytics, Efficiency, Forum Magazine, Legal Innovation

The pace of change in the legal profession has been accelerating over the past few years – a technology driven transformation of the legal system. Rarely a day goes by that we don’t read about new technology that promises to make lawyers more efficient than ever before, or replace them altogether. Compared to other service industries such as healthcare or finance, the legal services industry has been comparatively slow to embrace information technology. But change is coming fast and from many different directions, from how people receive legal services to how corporate legal departments operate. New legal applications, databases, and tech-enabled processes are changing the way lawyers practice law today.

Data scientists’ ability to quickly spot patterns in data to inform a company’s strategy has both start-ups and tech giants clamoring for their expertise. Several companies are now also bringing a data science approach to the law. While in Prof. Goodenough’s 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 classification of legal technologies, most of the machine learning and pattern recognition-based approaches would still fall into the 2.0 category, they provide new levels of insights to patterns in strategy.

In its essence, the law is entirely based on information that captures the rules governing our behavior/transactions as well as information about the world in which we operate. In other words, our personal and corporate actions take place in a tremendously complex system of legal information. As we take actions, we create legally relevant patterns and tracks. In fact, data has always driven the legal profession —we just never thought of it in these terms. Rather, we have used the descriptors’ legal documents (e.g., statutes or contracts), evidence, transcripts, interviews, or work product and defined our skills as expertise or experience.

Patterns of legally relevant data are increasingly discoverable through state-of-the-art data science techniques and technologies. More importantly, the discovery of these patterns no longer excites only legal scholars. A legal practitioner’s ability to understand patterns in a legal actor’s actions, be it a judge, opposing counsel, or a competitor, adds a layer of insight that allows attorneys to represent clients in more effective, strategic ways. It also allows us to benchmark our strategies and to develop best practices (for example, when faced with the threat of litigation by a patent troll). In short, bringing data analytics to the law creates new avenues for predicting outcomes for our clients, which helps us be better lawyers.

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