What You Should Know About Data Science

Legal tech has evolved quickly in recent years and shows no signs of stopping. Part of that evolution has come from the growing field of data science. Data science (sometimes called “big data”) is integral to our operation here at LexPredict, and with every passing day, more and more innovators and leaders at law firms and in-house legal departments are asking: What is data science? Why is it important?

Ron Friedmann, a D.C. lawyer working with strategic legal technology, came to us for some answers. The full interview is available from Mr. Friedmann here. Below is a short version, edited for content and clarity.

Ron Friedmann: What is data science?

LexPredict: Data science is the use of various analytical techniques to better understand, diagnose, forecast, and predict business outcomes. Virtually every industry now collects more data about what they do and how they do it […] This increase in data collection extends beyond business and into our personal and consumer lives, further shaping expectations at an individual level.

RF: Why is this important for law firms?

Lex: Law firms that do not collect and analyze [their data stores] will leave a great deal on the table, missing out on opportunities to improve the client experience, to mitigate risk, and to maximize their profits.

Further, clients take this space seriously. Some progressive corporate legal teams have created formal roles for legal data scientists. We are even working with legal and risk teams to invest in data strategies and new techniques to harness value from this data. We believe that law firms will find themselves in a precarious position if they don’t invest in areas that are congruent with client interest and needs.

RF: Where are law firms and law departments today on it?

Lex: The legal industry is in a very early state. When comparing the two, corporate legal departments are ahead of law firms. In-house teams have amassed more data in corporate systems.

For law firms, most are focused on modernizing reporting. Or, in some cases, they have specific clients driving activity. Strategic, systematic investment has been limited. For instance, we’re not aware of any firm that systematically tracks outcome and settlement data for all its litigation work. […] Law firms without outcome data are like basketball teams that don’t keep score. The “big data”, “data analytics”, and “predictive analytics” topics are, however, starting to inch up the priority lists of law firm leadership. Most firms appear to be in planning stages. Deep work is still rather rare.

RF: Why has data science become big in the last few years?

There is a mix of reasons. First, the amount of data being collected has exploded, and the costs of storage continue to decrease. The opportunities to apply data science continue to grow as the volume of data on-hand grows. Further, the work from these efforts continues to bring value to companies who invest, so the momentum behind these efforts continues to increase.

Second, our consumer lives continuously shape our expectations in this area. Fitbits, Apple Watches, and IOT-connected devices show how data can be collected and provide value. It’s difficult for consumers to be content with the practice of law in its current state while they simultaneously watch the world evolve in their personal lives.

LexPredict’s Data Science Survey

In the interview, Mr. Friedmann also asked us about our Annual Legal Data Strategy Survey. This simple survey is designed to get feedback from legal professionals on their usage of big data. Take a few minutes to answer our survey questions, and help us gain a better understanding of big data’s ever-evolving impact on legal.