Posted by: johnocunningham | May 4, 2014

Using Big Data to Practice Big Law

In recent years, I have noticed that an increasing number of legal clients have expressed concern about how or even whether their outside counsel at law firms are making use of technology and process improvement for greater efficiency and value.

These clients understand that in every other industry, creative use of technology and efficiency are defining the competitive edge. The organizations with the ability to implement technologies that yield significant product or service improvement, speed or quality are winning the battle for customers.

Now, I think law firms are in the earliest stages of putting their native analytical skills to work on investigating and implementing technologies that can help them win clients by cutting costs and saving time while lowering fees and still maintaining margins (sounds almost business-like).

One of the technology products I have been reading more about in the legal sector lately is Lex Machina, developed at Stanford University’s computer science department in conjunction with its law school. This product was originally designed to apply big data to the practice of intellectual property law and patent litigation in particular.

It can create data sets from public information filed in the federal courts, or the International Trade Commission’s Electronic Documents Information System. Soon, Lex Machina will also be able to analyze information filed in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as well.

With this tool, lawyers can rapidly analyze data about the outcomes of cases involving certain judges, opposing lawyers, parties and specific kinds of patents. An advocate can, for instance, search for patents related to a specific wireless technology, discovering how many such patents exist, how often and where they have been litigated, and what kinds of outcomes have resulted in terms of liability and damages.

An advocate using the tool can also create bar graphs and trend lines related to any of the variables being searched, according to Sean Doherty at Law Technology News, and presumably such an advocate could even do regression analysis (with the help of a math expert) to establish the relative importance of each of several key variables in the outcomes of patent or IP cases.

This gives lawyers the ability to deliver what business people have been asking for and what they have been required to deliver to their own clients and customers for a long time – a quantitative analysis and educated prediction of outcomes grounded in reality and big data.

And that, my fellow lawyers, is what it is going to take to win clients in the future – the very near future.

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