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Legal Data & Metrics

5 Steps to a Data-Driven Legal Practice

Thomson Reuters Institute  Insights, Thought Leadership & Engagement

· 5 minute read

Thomson Reuters Institute  Insights, Thought Leadership & Engagement

· 5 minute read

Lawyers, like other professionals, work with a staggering amount of data; and the key to business success is being more data-driven in your decision-making

Lawyers work with a lot of data; however, much of that data is not currently exploited to help support legal professionals’ legal decisions, client advice, or business strategies such as pricing.

Other industries — particularly those with consumer-facing offerings — have long leveraged large data sets to enhance decision-making. Predictions based on data are built into many familiar offerings such as traffic apps, e-commerce, and medicine.

The data that lawyers have available for decision support is significant, but fragmented and diffuse. Some important data comes from government sources — court data, legislation, regulations, etc. Other data is internal to legal organizations — billing data, and data about matters and outcomes. But because the use of data hasn’t been widely incorporated into legal workflows, lawyers often make decisions with a heavy reliance on personal experience and their own specific expertise.

Today, however, that is beginning to change; and data is increasingly being leveraged to support legal decision-making, particularly in three areas:

      • Litigation Planning and Strategy — Using data from court dockets to predict the likelihood of success on a motion or a judge’s tendency to rule on a specific type of matter, for example.
      • Document Review — Using predictive coding in eDiscovery tools to determine the relevance of a given document to a legal issue, for example.
      • Pricing and Budgeting — Using data from past billings and matter management systems to predict the cost of a matter and provide a fixed fee to the client.

Becoming a data-driven legal practice is not just a matter of harnessing data with the right software. It requires a significant change in mindset and a willingness to change workflows and processes. All of those require fundamental changes in an organization’s culture as well as the mindset of the people operating in that organization.

A new Thomson Reuters white paper, titled, “The Legal Professional’s Competitive Survival Guide: How Data Can Make Lawyers More Efficient, Competitive, and Predictive” looks at some of those changes that will be required of successful law firms and in-house legal departments as they begin to better leverage data in their operations. Also, the white paper includes a list of five steps to becoming a data-driven practice:

      1. Walk before you run and start with the low-hanging fruit — The place to start with using data to enhance your practice is probably in comparatively mundane applications
        like billing and matter-management systems. They hold a gold mine of data about productivity, value, talent, results, and outcomes. That data can be used to support decisions about staffing, pricing, and managing capacity.
      2. Identify and organize your data — Simply understanding what data you have is an important first step. This might also involve getting data structured in the right way: getting it out of disparate and unwieldy spreadsheets that law firms maintain for data-collection processes, for example, and into an organized and structured format that is both secure and shareable among those with the appropriate access permissions.
      3. Clean up your data — Data hygiene is a critical step. Many systems that support billing and matter management data, for example, weren’t designed with the large-scale extraction and analysis of that data in mind. Imposing that kind of data hygiene is hard work which involves relying on people with good data skills working side-by-side with the legal professionals who understand the significance of the data.
      4. Collaborate with those who know data well — Leveraging analytics in a legal organization requires lawyers to work in collaboration with people who understand data and data structures. For both lawyers and data professionals, crossing that divide and building trust and subject-matter expertise across professional boundaries is a big part of the mindset shift that the legal industry is facing today.
      5. Build a data-driven culture in your organization — Building a data-driven legal practice is not something you assign to a task force, department, or an individual. It’s one of these change-management challenges that requires buy-in from everyone: from leadership that is prepared to invest in it; to the professionals tasked with building applications; to the workflow owners who have the tough task of altering the way work gets done; and to the practitioners who have to trust the data and build data-driven predictions into the advice they give the firm’s clients.

You can download a free copy of the white paper, “The Legal Professional’s Competitive Survival Guide: How Data Can Make Lawyers More Efficient, Competitive, and Predictive” here.

This white paper is part of a series of Thomson Reuters white papers and other resources concerning artificial intelligence in the legal industry and data-centric legal practice.

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