Over recent years, data has grown to become the most precious commodity that we have: more valuable than oil or gas and with innumerable potential uses. Below Lawyer Monthly hears from Masoud Gerami, Managing Director of Justis, who has been at the forefront of legal research technology and the digitisation of case law for the past 30 years.
Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are now the five most valuable listed companies in the world. In the provision of legal services data is also increasingly important, providing a tool which law firms can use to gain competitive advantage over each other.
This does not simply mean having access to large amounts of data in the form of case law for their own sake alone; the real value lies in effective interpretation and analysis of what lies buried deep in the content. In practice, this requires offering data that is refined rather than raw, with the presentation of data in a form that lawyers can readily use to their advantage being a key concern.
Accordingly, the process of synthesising of refined data requires an ability to look at the raw data from a multi-dimensional perspective, providing a level of detail that would not otherwise be possible. This has become one of the most important factors in staying ahead of the competition, not least because of the benefits that it promises to deliver in cost, efficiency and effectiveness both for law firms and for their clients.
Every lawyer knows that our legal system generates an ever-increasing amount of raw data, yet despite the interconnectedness that comes with ever more digitisation, large volumes of unstructured and unrefined legal data are still produced, making proper management of it a universal problem. So too is deciding exactly what data to use and when to use it. Each new case that is brought adds further to the existing body of knowledge that a lawyer potentially has to accommodate and consider in their research in order to do their job effectively.
The wealth of potentially useful data stored in documents, statements and court judgments is perhaps most evident in litigation, as well as the allied issues of discovery and investigation, where its impact on legal practice has been labelled as an ongoing revolution.
In response, litigation analytics has become a discrete area of research and analysis which enables lawyers to search millions of records so that they can give better advice to clients, predict a range of possible outcomes with greater certainty, and inform their litigation strategy.
Historically, businesses have been very reluctant to get involved in most types of litigation for two very good reasons: it is often hugely expensive and it usually carries enormous risk. Unlike most other areas of business activity, both elements have usually been unquantifiable. Sometimes, however, they have no choice but to become involved. And when they do, intelligent use of data can help to provide a more accurate measure of risk and cost for business: the two key drivers at the heart of litigation analytics.
Of course, businesses have been using systems involving data analytics, and for much longer than lawyers have, in order to understand, manage and mitigate their risks in multiple areas of operation. Only recently have lawyers begun to play catch up as they increasingly turn to innovative technologies to create distinct competitive advantages in the legal market.
Drawing on a range of extensive databases can help inform those lawyers advising businesses in dispute resolution who can then make an informed value judgment about risk and cost. It also allows them to shape a distinct litigation strategy and facilitate a better prediction of the potential outcome of each case. As an example, taking into account the impact of judges’ previous decisions in related cases can provide a useful benchmark, which in turn adds to the information being considered in terms of risk and cost.
But this alone may not be sufficient. Although relevant data can certainly make dispute resolution practitioners better informed, they can only become wiser in their personal judgment about the case in which they are advising, and the potential outcome, if the available information is readily accessible and in the right format. Then, and only then, can it be easily evaluated and used to plan ahead.
A key element of modern litigation strategy therefore is thorough research of the wealth of information available. This has to fulfil two criteria; it must be both effective and comparative. Essentially, it must help to put data about previous cases into context.
Significant improvements in technology and burgeoning demand from practitioners has led to data-driven research becoming increasingly more innovative, specifically in the methods made available to lawyers in evaluating and interpreting big data. This can range from historical information about judges and lawyers, notably including the cases in which they have been involved and the decisions reached, to the different parties in dispute, and even specialist IP issues, such as patents.
However, the major databases operated and delivered by large service providers function primarily as search engines, offering relatively few tools for automated analytics. The critical element for lawyers, however, is for more value to be added by organising it in such a way that it can be analysed comparatively. This is something which is achieved through using technology to improve how we access and analyse the law, and this is the driving principle behind Justis.
Analytics of judgments and legislation can do exactly by streamlining the research process. The flagship JustisOne platform enables those conducting legal research to access the most cited parts of a judgment quickly, seeing if it has set precedent and how, as well as reviewing which other cases may support or challenge it. All of this helps to improve efficiency when building the argument in a new case.
It also helps to amplify the thinking of the lawyer and to make them more effective in working through data. However, the potential applications of technology can stretch much further than case law research alone. With the right tools at hand, practitioners are able to analyse the earlier decisions made by the judge or judges overseeing their case, and then see which precedents they have previously relied on or challenged, and so tailor the arguments used in the current case accordingly. Analysing the previous decisions of judges allows for legal professionals to make decisions that are more data driven.
Against this background, potential questions may arise as to how far analytics could go in providing additional areas which may need to be considered in legal research, and whether these may come to alter fundamentals of the profession. As more tools are released, it is vital for practitioners to ensure that these services work for them, and facilitate the application of the research and analysis skills associated with the legal profession.
For now, there can be no doubt that additional analytical tools are already assisting practitioners, and will do so to an even greater extent in the near future. The world of litigation analytic tools informing case strategy is here to stay. But in the process, lawyers should maintain their focus in using technology to help support the core task of building a strong, well-researched case.