Why Law Firms Need to Reconsider Their Data Strategies (and their Cultural Differences)

GeneralFeb 05, 2020

If you ask IT leaders about their long-term strategies, you’ll often get a smile. It’s not a smile of happiness - it’s a smile that says, “get real!” That’s because most technology teams spend their days in reaction mode, going from crisis to crisis. They’re too busy helping Bob from accounting who forgot his password to actually engage in meaningful planning activities. Everything happens on the fly.

As a lawyer AND a technologist, I can assure that the majority of lawyers don’t understand this. They don’t understand how technology works, and they also don’t understand how technologists work. And it goes both ways - tech teams (even ones who work inside a law firm) don’t really get  law and what the requirements are for security, data management, and other critical areas. In my experience, this cultural divide is the major reason why the legal industry and the IT world don’t get along - they don’t really get each other.

The problem is that the legal and IT universes are converging, and neither side has the luxury of working in isolation away from “those people.” We all need to get along because law is becoming increasingly intertwined with IT. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you spent a whole day sitting in a dusty law library poring through old cases?

The Data Problem

We are all suffering from information overload. Humanity is creating enough content to fill the Library of Congress every 14 minutes. We are on track to generate an estimated 1.7MB of data every second for every person on earth in 2020. And few industries are feeling the burn more than the legal field. We’ve always created (and relied on) data, and thanks to modern technologies from texting to Facebook to mobile calls we are literally drowning in data. It’s not just legal research: between internal data about billing, clients and outcomes, as well as government data such as court information, legislation and regulation, there is no way for humans to keep up with the information. The solution is automation. Simply put, lawyers need to rely on technology to manage and use all of the data available to them.

Within law firms, data can be used in a variety of areas to support decision- making and to decrease the time spent on cases. Today, data is being increasingly used to support litigation planning and strategy, to predict success of a case based on similar trials, and to perform document reviews where predictive coding can help determine the effectiveness of discovery. Within firms and legal departments, data can be used to predict and lower costs. Leveraging data for these and other solutions helps drive better results in a competitive market. 

To maximize the value of data, law firms must first embrace a data-centric approach to running their organizations based on what data is collected and how it can be effectively used. Within that data strategy, law firms can build in data security requirements, which could include changing where data is stored and the format in which it is stored. Restrictions can also be used to control who can access and manipulate data within the organization. This isn’t a hypothetical: in 2019, almost 90 percent of Canadian lawyers said that they planned to increase cybersecurity resources. This is where integration with IT teams is critical.

Artificial Intelligence

Although it may seem like a far-off concept, research shows that AI in law firms may soon be commonplace. By 2026, the legal tech AI industry is expected to generate around $37.9 billion. Quality data, combined with AI, can help law firms develop valuable insights that can help improve business and legal obligations. AI can also complete methodical and time consuming tasks that currently fall to associates. 

In order for artificial intelligence models to be effective, a quality data strategy must already be in place to assure that data is clean and accurate. This is because most AI implementation requires initial data to guide what data is collected and how it is stored. In order for AI outputs to be accurate and meaningful, they need to be guided by accurate, high quality data. According to Deloitte, 45 percent of law firms plan to increase their technology spend in the next two to five years. Even if a law firm is not looking towards AI, it is important to consider a data strategy. That way, if the time comes when AI is readily available, the firm will have accurate data in place to drive AI functions.

Leveraging Data for Success

A report by McKinsey revealed that data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers and six times more likely to retain customers. In an increasingly competitive law market, firms and internal departments will need to consider improved methods to help them drive better results for customers. That can only happen if lawyers and technologists learn to trust each other. 

The data revolution has changed law. You need a partner that has kept up.