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Quantify This: Next-Gen Lawyers and Legal Analytics

We often hear about the ever-changing world of technology and how it impacts the practice of law and legal compliance. This is also significantly affects what individuals are entering the law practice, as well as their interests, skills, and desired job opportunities.

I recently talked with an aspiring in-house lawyer, Albert J. Higgins, who is about to graduate from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University (ASU), which is ranked 25th by US News and World Report for best law schools and 22nd globally by the Academic Ranking of World Universities. Albert’s interest is in legal analytics, a field that many of us do not understand or comprehend how it is useful in the practice of law.

K: Albert, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
AJH: I am a 3L at ASU law set to graduate this December (2017), earning a certificate in Law, Science, and Technology. Before law school, I earned my MBA through ASU with a concentration in Management of Technology and Innovation. I have a background in business management, including working as a business consultant for ASU on the Sun Devil Stadium renovation project. This past summer I also gained business litigation/ transactional experience working as a summer associate for a local law firm.

K: Why would you enter law school to study technology?
AJH: As indicated by my background, I am interested in big data, privacy, and emerging technology — an area of business that is rapidly affecting each industry in today’s changing market. In particular, I am interested in how this coincides with legal analytics. Aside from technology and its capabilities being so fascinating, this field is the future of every industry. Understanding how big data and the law tie together is fundamental to effective growth.

The courses I have taken at ASU, in particular the law classes that focus on law and technology, have opened up my perspective significantly to things I would have likely never considered. For example, before taking these courses, I never even heard of legal analytics. I can’t speak for prior graduates, but as a current soon-to-be law grad, I feel I have gotten more out these classes than any other class I’ve taken. As a society, we are reliant on technology and much of the issues that are arising are completely unprecedented in many jurisdictions. As such, I feel it is very important to stay educated on the topic. Just as technology has revolutionized many other industries, it is changing how law will be practiced.
"Just as technology has revolutionized many other industries, it is changing how law will be practiced."
K: What is it about technology that fascinates you?
AJH:
The enormous amount of new data continuously generated is in large part due to the drastic increase in emerging technologies. Machine-to-machine technologies in the late 2000s changed the business landscape by allowing wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices remotely. This technology gave rise to the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is essentially a network of internet-connected objects able to collect and exchange data. Costs in manufacturing IoT devices have gone down significantly in the last decade and the demand from consumers to stay connected has drastically increased. With the wide adoption of IoT technology, it has been projected that by 2020 over 200 billion devices will be connected and actively giving off data.

K: So why data analytics in particular?
AJH:
Through the use of data analytic technologies (used commonly in many other markets, especially retail), lawyers are able to sift through large amounts of data in a significantly shorter amount of time. In fact, studies have shown that technology-assisted review is at least 50 times more efficient than human-review or manual review.  In addition, legal analytics can be used as a predictive tool. Through in-depth, granular analysis of legal data in combination with proprietary algorithms designed by companies that specialize in data analytics, a lawyer is able to predict the likelihood of successful strategies and quantify the risks associated. In doing so, lawyers are able to assess the most efficient and cost-effective way to staff a case. Of course, just as there are many potential privacy and ethical risks when using big data in any other industry, those same risks are also present when used in a legal context and should be carefully considered.

K: Can you provide some examples of data analytics in use now in the legal field?
AJH:
Absolutely. Legal analytics, especially with artificial intelligence, are used in document review where previously first year law firm associates spend hours reviewing documents. Machines can do the same workload up to 90 percent more accurately and faster than humans. Machines can also reduce the amount of documents humans would need to review, by parsing through all of them and eliminating non-pertinent information. In one case, the software eliminated 95 percent predictive systems, which can generate highly probable results based on analyzing law, rules, regulations, case law, and decision-maker history.

Courts are now using analytics to help settle cases, which may be controversial, but proving to be increasingly useful. For example, a juvenile court judge recently started using analytics to help him quickly identify and focus on the more important elements of a child’s case, reducing the judge’s burden in managing case load and presumably resulting in a better overall case management for the child. Particularly of interest is how analytics can learn patterns of behavior and identify potential areas of fraud in a company, either by employees or consumers, and alert compliance teams to areas of concern for whistleblowing.
"There is immense value in emerging technology and legal analytics."
K: Aside from those examples, is the use of legal analytics necessary in a law firm setting?
AJH: Future use of data analytics in a firm is dependent partly on how open a firm is to unexpected uses of disruptive technology and early adoption. Many firms are likely waiting for AI technologies to mature within the legal industry before adopting such uses themselves, even though the technology has been developing for decades now. However, as more firms turn to this solution, competitive pressure and client demands for return on investment will drive adoption. Data analytics is a means to quantify workload breakdowns and offers analysis on risk and estimated costs for a client. Furthermore, clients are starting to ask for proof that law firms are innovating and embracing the latest legal technologies to provide a better service. These pressures, coupled with the temptation to gain an invaluable competitive advantage, or perhaps the risk of losing such an advantage by not adopting this technology, may create further urgency for firms to adopt legal analytics in a broader scope.

K: Given that you are about to graduate, how do you envision turning this into a career — why would law firms hire you?
AJH: Many large firms are starting to hire legal analytic professionals. These firms are seeing the value and necessity in creating a legal analytics team to better serve their firm’s efficiency, growth, and client needs. I feel my background would be beneficial to helping firms achieve these goals. Both as a business consultant and legal analytic professional, I would be able to assist firms in integrating innovative technologies while also staying compliant with relevant regulations and ethical considerations. There is immense value in emerging technology and legal analytics. As a recent grad starting one’s career during this unique time when the way in which law is practiced is changing rapidly due to technology, I am in a position to hit the ground running in helping a firm understand and capitalize on this value at the forefront.

K: What should companies look for in a law firm when they are looking to hire them?
AJH: Companies should look for law firms that are actively looking for solutions in how to integrate technology to increase efficiency and value, rather than law firms that are firmly opposed change. Businesses, driven by fluctuating markets and consumer demand, are rapidly evolving.  Understanding how legal analytics plays a crucial role in a firm’s strategy and operations will enable businesses to keep up with market demand.

About the Author

K Royal is a technology columnist for ACCDocket.com, and director at TrustArc. @heartofprivacykroyal


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