The legal profession has evolved
at an unprecedented speed. Technology and new emerging tools harnessing
artificial intelligence and data visualization all help legal professionals now
uncover valuable insights. It is almost impossible to attend a conference today and not
encounter multiple discussions about artificial intelligence (AI). Many in the
legal profession have begun to assume—that AI is the future of law. While still
in its infancy, artificial intelligence-powered tools are at a point where new
insights are now possible.
of what is happening in the legal space related to AI is connected to machine
learning. There is plenty of hype and confusion about these terms in the media,
but for our purposes it is probably best to think of AI as a broad technology
category whereby machines carry out “smart” tasks that we associate with human
decision making. Machine learning is a subset of AI—a powerful application of
AI technology in which we expose machines to lots of data and provide them with
ways to learn on their own and become incrementally “smarter” over time.
discussions of AI in the legal context tend to be hyperbolic and focus on
concepts like “robot lawyers.” This is unfortunate for at least a number of
reasons. First of all, its potential may be overlooked and it also generates
fear among highly skilled professionals that they might soon be at risk of
being replaced by machines. While machines may indeed one day perform some of
the tedious, mundane and repetitive tasks in preparation for any legal matters,
we are a long way away—if ever—from replacing the extraordinary levels of
nuanced judgement and expertise demonstrated daily by experienced legal
counsel. This would do a real disservice to AI and legal technology as it would
overshadow truly meaningful work in the area of machine learning. Solutions
today are already improving the interaction between humans and computers,
rapidly evolving a lawyer’s ability to answer questions and draw important
legal insights from ever-growing data collections.
AI technology would best be described as powering a new era of ‘augmented
intelligence’ for lawyers. Lawyers are still making key legal judgments but now
have powerful tools to draw new legal insights. AI technology is making it
possible for legal professionals to interact in a more natural, conversational
way with computer systems. The language of law—which is very specialized and
highly context sensitive—is being mapped into computer systems so that the
mountains of legal data that we now have access to can be mined more
effectively. AI’s promise is that we will get better results quicker and more
efficiently, and at a lower cost.
equally promising technology whose potential may be overlooked amid all this
hype is data analytics. Data has
always been the foundation of law. However convenience, accessibility, and the
speed of digital mediums are all transforming this discipline from within. Data
volumes continue to grow at exponential rates, and “big data” is an issue
across just about every legal function. This is true whether you are talking
about research or sketching out a legal strategy, assessing the merits of a
case, or performing a multitude of tasks that a lawyer now confronts. Client
expectations too now have changed and there are relentless demands to be more
efficient and deliver more cost-effective services. Lawyers’ work today
involves finding, sifting and synthesizing relevant information much quicker.
This is a problem that must be addressed because the pressure from clients is
not easing up.
there are effective solutions in the marketplace today that target these
data-related challenges. Technology-focused companies have learned a lot about
how to manage big sets of data. These providers are also investing heavily in
the promise of language-based technologies that can scan, interpret, and
synthesize the written document. These solutions are empowering the
“data-driven lawyer,” for whom the big data phenomenon represents an opportunity,
rather than an intractable problem.
Data-driven analytics is something lawyers and
other workers should learn how to do and use. The prevalence of data-based
applications in consumer technology is an important part of this story. For
consumers, data is already all-encompassing. Ordinary people are already
accustomed to and welcoming the convenience that insights derived from data
brings to their lives.
Lawyers who have, for one reason or another, not
implemented data-driven changes into their professional lives are at least
witnessing that data makes their personal lives more convenient and fulfilling.
Here are some examples of how data is a game
- Data about traffic congestion is piped
to mobile applications such as Google Maps.
- When consumers use their mobile
devices, algorithms crunch information about themselves as well as establish
similar “buyer personas”, presenting then to users, all the choices matching
what the algorithms think they want to see.
- When seeking medical advise, health
care providers can access data about patients, and use such data to support
decisions about treatments and diagnoses.
- When consumers use their credit card,
they are too facilitating the expansion of a big database of their personal
But how can lawyers use such data to engage in
predictions about the future and advise clients on legal matters? The primary
model has been through complementary forces of expertise and experience. As
lawyers practiced and gained knowledge over the years, they relied on their
personal experience and judgment for how these questions should be answered.
Now another reference point is – data-driven decision making – and has become
part of their repertoire. Data today is not only a set of static reference
points on which a human can make decisions. It has become a dynamic asset that
can be used to root out previously unseen relationships and conclusions. The
data and legal analytics a lawyer has nowadays might be applied to the
quantitative predictions they are asked to make about the future, particularly
if the data exists in a consistent structure. Data that can fundamentally
improve some common predictions lawyers are asked to make are litigation
planning strategies, document reviews, sensing patterns in the way judges rule,obtaining detailed
metrics on how successful witness experts have been admitted into court, as well as pricing and budgeting at the law firm. With the help of analytics law
firms can also identify gaps in their own team and hire to fill those gaps in certain
the rise of analytics is the maturation of artificial intelligence technologies
like natural language processing and machine learning, which are deployed to
add structure to complex legal data, which in turn can be used for comprehensive
and quality statistical analysis. With advances in machine learning, attorneys,
editors and other subject matter experts can help train computers to structure
vast amounts of legal data, enabling machines to replicate human editorial
activities at scale. With clean, structured data, companies can then create
powerful new tools that identify important legal trends and help lawyers make
better legal and business decisions. Building a
data-driven legal practice is not going to happen overnight, but starting this
road map is not as daunting as it may seem.
Here are five good starting points:
- The place to start with using data to
enhance your practice is probably in comparatively mundane applications such
as billing and management systems. They hold a gold
mine of data about productivity, value, talent, results, and outcomes.
- The next step involves getting data
structured in the right way and into an organized and structured format that is
both secure and shareable among those with appropriate access permissions.
- Data hygiene is the following critical
step. Data in legal organizations may also require some tidying up, but can be
incredibly valuable when properly sanitized.
- There is no getting around the fact
that leveraging analytics in a legal organization requires lawyers to work
side-by-side with people who understand the data and data structures. But
crossing that divide and building trust and subject-matter expertise across
professional boundaries is a necessary mindset shift facing the legal industry
- Building a data-driven legal practice and culture is not something you
assign to a task force, department, or an individual. It requires a buy-in from
everyone from the top leadership down. None of this is
easy and it all comes down to building behaviours and practices that support
the idea that -this is how we do things from now on, and it is better than our
- Creating a data-driven legal practice
is a matter of competitive survival. And it is much more than simply the
adoption of a new tool or product. It requires a shift in mind-set and a
significant cultural change for the organization.
is offering real utility and value to legal practitioners right now. Legal
analytics and data power better decision-making in a number of legal practice
areas such as patent and trademark law, copyright, securities, antitrust, and
commercial litigation. By processing this enriched data, lawyers can draw
conclusions about opposing counsel, case opinions, judges, litigation parties,
and contract drafts in order to reveal legal insights that were not previously
knowable. Legal analytics is also being used to help firms improve the ways
they approach their business. It does so by providing factual data about the behaviour
and performance of law firms and individual lawyers—including data points like
win rates, cases with resolutions, etc. Analytics can also be used to track
broad industry trends relevant to activities like strategic planning, business
development, and marketing.
these adoption rates for legal analytics tools rise, we are seeing the
data-driven lawyer of tomorrow is increasingly a reality today. Whether legal
professionals want to be more persuasive in court, do a better job identifying
a reliable expert witness, or simply know more about their own firm and lawyers,
they are discovering that legal analytics exposes an array of data points and insights
that otherwise would have been the province of anecdotes and speculation. As
technology continues to improve, our ability to extract and classify legal
language will improve and the types of questions legal analytics can answer
will continue to multiply. Questions that once seemed unanswerable are now
answered with a quick dashboard lookup. Tomorrow’s data-driven lawyer will have
the opportunity to benefit from all of these technologies. Conversely, the
lawyer without access to these technologies will be at a significant