Please enjoy this blog post from co-authors Pablo Balancini, CEO & Founder, LegalHub, Damian Giacone, CTO, LegalHub and Jose Vega Sainz, COO & LegalOps, LegalHub.
“We will tell the whole world that we speak the truth. No force can stop us now, we're cool, we're badass, blah blah blah." The phrase, although it is taken from the film True Lies, can perfectly be applied to the current state of Law in relation to data and decision-making.
The legal world is -historically- a conservative industry. The provision of traditional legal services is based on a practice that exalts proprietary knowledge and installs lawyers as the only providers of legal service. The specific focus of the system is expert practice and most of the time, decisions are made based on the expertise of seasoned lawyers in the field, with several years of experience in the legal matter in question.
Oftenly, the legal sector is used as an example of a knowledge-industry where value is mainly produced by the contribution of legal professionals. In this context, digital technology entails a transformation of the way we work, which forces us to rethink the services offered and decision-making processes.
“It is clear that we are past the time when companies should be questioning themselves whether data is important or not. The real question is, can they…afford not to?” says Bernard Marr, author of several titles exploring new technologies and their applications in business. For Marr, “all companies are technology companies'', referring to the relevance of data in the business of providing services. This affirmation -which resounded in the ears of multiple businesses that began to reinvent themselves- did not have a correlation in the legal world (or at least it did not until very recently).
The difficulty is given, in our opinion, by two dissimilar factors. The first of these is of a more subjective nature, it consists in what we mentioned supra: legal professionals, due to their training (both academic and professional), may be reluctant to use technology. This factor is accentuated when -precisely- its proprietary value (knowledge) is compromised by the use of data as a source for decision-making processes, or to try to validate a legal opinion.
The second factor is more technical. Although the legal sector generates a large amount of data, it is usually of an unstructured nature; most commonly data is contained in documents such as court decisions, lawsuits, and other legal corpus that are not standardized and are difficult to interpret. Consequently, advanced techniques must be used to transform unstructured data into structured data.
In order to solve this issue, in Legal Hub we work with the appropriate technologies, a multidisciplinary team and a creative approach, that allows us to read legal documents such as court rulings and lawsuits (among others) in order to extract the necessary data in each case and structure it in a database. To do this we use NLP (natural language processing, a sub-branch of artificial intelligence) techniques. When we manage to recover data from documents, we apply a series of normalization and enrichment processes that allow our algorithms to extract valuable information.
Once we manage to move from unstructured data to structured data, we develop business indicators available through various dynamic dashboards and charts, which allow users to detect relationships between different entities, or otherwise the user can simply perform a keyword search through our full-text-engine in order to carry out a knowledge-discovery process.
Based on all of the above, Legal Hub has created a platform where charts are combined with visualization models of court rulings and other legal documents in an unprecedented way for the industry, allowing for conclusions to be drawn on legal information that are difficult to achieve without the adequate display of information. This is why at Legal Hub we care about having a platform with a clean and attractive interface, with clear charts and tables. The user experience was decisive to the design of our tools and it was specially thought for end-users with no experience in data analysis or data visualization in graphs.
Clear presentation of information and granularity of data must be at the heart of legal analytics. That is why we designed our platform taking into account that our typical user is not accustomed to working with and reading charts with numbers, tables and statistics.
With these tools in hand, legal professionals should be able to access data in a simple and intuitive way. They should be able to discover valuable insights regarding their data, and understand that this is not to the detriment of professional intuition, but that data is rather a powerful tool that can help confirm what experience dictates; legal professional should have enough acuity to interpret data and be able to play the cards in their favor, in case the data is not in line with their professional opinion, thus improving their decision-making processes.
The best analogy for this, in our opinion, lays in the field of chess. Freestyle chess is a variant developed by Kasparov, where players can compete alone, with their computers, or assisted by them. A tournament was played, where the winners were not the great chess players playing alone, nor the computers by themselves. Simply, those who made the best decisions, assisted by computers, won. From then on, these cases were called centaurs, because they were half-human and half-machine. “The conclusion that is drawn is that those without the best knowledge but with decent computers and a good decision-making process are better than those who are brilliant and have excellent computers but are unable to decide correctly. We need to understand that the world is full of these new centaurs. It matters little if they are bankers, lawyers or doctors”.