What Can Big Data Analytics Offer to Law Firms?

By Deborah Dobson posted 02-19-2015 14:25


My good friend Tara Taubman asked this question in a comment on my post "Law Firms: Who is on Your Big Data Bus?"  An excellent question and one that is important for law firms, so I thought I would share my thoughts on the question.

I like this quote by Jobst Elster, the Head of Content/Legal Market Strategy for, In the October/November 2013 edition of Legal Management.

"I have found that defining big data is really a matter of perspective. Technologists have a bits and bytes definition; marketing tends to have a customer profiling and analytics-focused view; governance and IT might frame big data in a security setting; and firm attorneys may see it as their opportunity to counsel clients on issues pertaining to (big) data security, privacy and information management.
Generally speaking, the most popular application of big data is with analytics and data mining."

Big data is most commonly defined by 4 V's:

  • Volume:  The amount of data that you have.
  • Variety:  Is the data structured (Data that resides in a fixed field within a record or file), unstructured (Data does not have a pre-defined data model or is not organized in a pre-defined manner), text-based, internal and external.
  • Velocity:  How fast the data is coming in and how fast you need to be able to analyze and utilize it.
  • Veracity:  Can you trust the data?  How accurate is it?

So, what are some of the real world examples where big data could, or is, being used in law firms?

Determining Litigation Strategies

Because big data uses historical analyses to predict future outcomes, it could be leveraged to predict the outcome of individual lawsuits.  LexMachina is trying to leverage big data in the intellectual property practice area.  As of April 2014,  LexMachina had compiled data from 147,000 cases, 120,000 filings, 16 million docket entries, 185,000 documents, 1,400 judges and 28,000 decisions. Using data analytics, Lex Machina tries to predict the likely outcome of current intellectual property cases.

Jury Selection Process:

Applications already exist to help lawyers track information about prospective jurors. Big data adds the possibility of having the ability to pull information about prospective jurors from their publicly-available data in real time.

Legal Spend Management

Big data helps corporate law departments to analyze large amounts of data from invoices to negotiate better deals.  TyMetrix Legal Analytics has developed a mobile application that aggregates data from thousands of law firm invoices to come up with hourly billing rates based on practice areas, geography, etc.

What do these types of big data projects offer to the law firm? I think law firms that leverage big data to create efficiencies, better predict case outcomes as much as possible and streamline processes will gain a competitive advantage in a competitive market.

Justin Ergler, Director, Alternative Fee Intelligence & Analytics at GlaxoSmithKline was quoted as saying:

"In order to survive the new marketplace, law firms must differentiate themselves with something other than the excellent lawyering mantra.  Leveraging big data is a way to do that."

What do you think big data analytics can offer to law firms?

Also, stay tuned for information regarding ILTA's big data webinar series which will begin this spring.  More information to come.