Big data and smart data are terms that have woven themselves into
our conversations, our courtrooms, our clients’ industries, and our firms. The term “big
data” refers both to datasets that are too large for analysis using traditional techniques and
to the new and emerging cleaning and analytic tools we apply to such data. In fact, data is
now so “big” that until 2003, the entire world had only generated 5 billion gigabytes of
data. This same amount is now generated every 10 minutes, and 90 percent of the world’s
data has accumulated in the last five years. 1 Our collective data conversation is soon to
change from one of gigabytes to zettabytes.
Numerous fields readily employ big data in their decision-making. President Barack
Obama’s 2012 election campaign famously used big data analytics and statistical experimentation to assemble a coalition of voters. Google used big data to track flu and Dengue
fever epidemic trends in recent outbreaks, and a new initiative called Africa Open Data
intends to use data to tackle health challenges like Ebola. A full spectrum of businesses—from big-box online retailers to bakeries—analyzes big customer data to target their
marketing. It is more and more common for broad and deep information to be used as a
guide to decision-making.
What does big data mean for the legal field? What are some best-practice tools for managing large amounts of information in a case, and when should attorneys rely on these
tools? How can attorneys and firms best get to information that can guide their litigation
strategies? How can understanding law firm data increase profitability, and what are the
best tools to analyze law firm metrics?
The short answer is that law firms can benefit from data-driven decision-making, and
attorneys can increase efficiency and profits by incorporating data into their legal practices.
This article addresses these questions and provides an overview of the intersection between data and the legal field.
MELISSA KOVACS has a Ph.D. in public policy and econometrics
and is the principal and founder of FirstEval LLC, a data
analytics and statistical consulting firm. Her clients include
nonprofit organizations in the arts and social service sectors,
governments, foundations, and attorneys. She can be reached at
email@example.com or via her website: http://firsteval.com/