A big part of law is steeped in information, but making sense of the sheer volume of available data poses problems ranging from accuracy to cost-efficiency. Whether gathering knowledge on Felony statistics to prepare a case or analyzing court decisions to detect trends, legal research consumes a lot of man hours. Companies like Intelius provide access to reams of data, but the ability to cull this volume of information and make sense of it remains a challenge.
Legal research is loosely defined as identifying and retrieving relevant data to direct and support legal decision-making. That applies to drawing contracts, constructing a case or even running your law firm. Statistical analysis, as it applies to investigations, prosecution and trial outcomes, is especially important for lawyers to understand.
Steps in Data Analysis
Data analytics, whether in law or scientific research, follows five basic steps:
* Framing the question, What is it you need to know or what problem are you trying to solve?
* Gathering the relevant information
* Cleaning and structuring the information so it’s understandable
* Running an analysis and testing theories
* Using the information to draw a conclusion or make decisions
Data analytics applications perform this process more efficiently and without the bias of human error to allow more informed decision making. In the area of law, this has many useful applications. Firms can perform analytics to streamline billing or assess risk and determine probabilities of outcome in a trail or negotiation.
The Evolution of Data Analysis in Legal Settings
Although law is an area that is data-driven, lawyers have been slow to optimize available technology outside of an office management environment. It has been used mainly for time management, client relations and marketing. The real value in big data analysis in how it can be applied to case preparation and research, which are at the heart of any law practice.
Law offices have access to high volumes of meaningful data through services like Judges Analytics, which performs data visualizing through sophisticated algorithms. This particular application culls through every decision made by certain judges to determine trends in their decision making and court rulings. When you want to find a judge that might be more sympathetic to your case, that kind of information can be invaluable.
The challenge for law schools and firms is to move away from traditional conservatism and embrace emerging technologies. Harvard Law School, assisted by Ravel Law, has been at the forefront of this trend by teaming up to completely digitize the school’s vast law library and make its contents available online to students, researches and lawyers all over the world, free of charge.
In what ways is your practice planning to incorporate emerging technologies in the coming decade?