Understanding the Role of Data in the Legal Profession

March 28, 2018
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When you study various industries, it’s pretty obvious which ones are relying heavily on data and which ones are lagging behind. And if you were to delve into the latter category, you’d certainly find the legal profession.

For all of the advances the legal profession has made over the years, it seems to be slow in adapting to big data. Part of this has to do with some limitations and constraints that don’t make big data extremely applicable, but there’s also an overwhelming uncertainty regarding how to best implement and use data.

The more those within the legal profession understand data, the more they’ll begin to see the potential it has to revolutionize archaic processes and promote greater efficiency and accuracy.

Applications for Data in the Legal Profession

There’s a right and wrong time to use data in the legal profession. As you contemplate what role it should play in your own firm – or the industry as a whole – let’s check out a few of the top applications.

1. Website Analytics

The amount of data a law firm has available is often astounding. A law firm’s website is the perfect illustration.

Take this landing page from Zlotolow & Associates, P.C. as an example. The firm uses it as a tool for generating leads and driving business – but it’s much more than that. Beneath the surface, the firm can study on-page analytics and get a better idea of who is visiting, clicking, and interacting with the page. As a result, they can continually optimize the page to perform better over time.

2. Comparing Attorneys

In almost every industry, customers use the internet to compare products and services and choose the best one. As people become accustomed to the convenience of quick comparisons, they’re coming to expect the same out of legal services.

As Pearl Insurance explains, “It will become customary for clients to use data analytics to evaluate law firms. Everything from the percentage of trials won and negotiation outcomes, to expenses for travel and overall cost of services, will become easy to compare against other law firms.”

Law firms can get ahead of this trend by collecting their own data and using it to tell a story that makes their firm/services more attractive to prospective clients.

3. Case Research

As things presently stand, there are two databases that lawyers typically use to gather case files and conduct research – LexisNexis and Westlaw. And while there’s plenty of information in these systems, they act as search engines and do little more than deliver results. But this could soon change.

“One challenger which is attempting to apply more sophisticated technology to this vast and arcane body of knowledge is Ravel Law,” big data expert Bernard Marr says. “Established in 2012 by two lawyers with backgrounds in analytics, they provide services designed to help legal professionals draw insights and connections using advanced analytical algorithms.”

The beauty of a system like this is that it lets researchers sift through more case files and look past basic takeaways and outcomes. The hope is that lawyers could actually dig in and find things that are easy to miss – such as the tendencies of particular judges and concrete relationships between seemingly unrelated factors.

Data is the Way Forward

Make no mistake about it – data represents the way forward for the legal industry. Just as Bates v. Arizona State Bar changed the face of the legal profession by granting firms the right to advertise their services, big data has the chance to totally alter the way law firms collect, store, and act on relevant information. Make sure you’re paying attention so that you’re on the cutting edge of this shift.