Although the predictive and analytical power of big data has been used across a wide range of industries for years, the legal industry has largely been slow to add legal analytics to its arsenal of essential tools. In fact, according to a recent survey by RELX Group, a major business analytics firm, law ranked as one of the industries that used big data the least. However, 90% of ALM Intelligence and Lexis’ 2020 Legal Analytics Study survey respondents agree that legal analytics is instrumental in making them a better legal practitioner.
To help the legal community better understand legal analytics, also known as law firm data analytics, we’ll unpack what it is, how it can be used, what tools to use, and whether your law firm should use legal analytics to improve processes and make better decisions.
What is legal analytics?
Legal analytics is the process of using data to make measurable predictions and informed decisions on topics affecting law firms and lawyers, like matter forecasting, legal strategy, and resource management. When used appropriately, legal analytics can bring unparalleled transparency and insight to legal professionals, departments, and decision-makers—giving them a competitive advantage.
Data in the legal industry generally falls into three categories:
- Individual data
- Internal law firm data
- Legal industry data
What’s the difference between individual and internal law firm data? Individual data is related to your existing and potential clients’ online activities on your website, which are typically sourced from places like Google Analytics, email campaigns, and cookies. Internal data comes from your law firm’s daily activities like billing and time tracking. Industry data comes from third-party research groups to determine legal industry trends, such as with the Legal Trends Report.
In the past, it was nearly impossible to gain any meaningful insight from the vast amounts of legal data available. But with the advent of technologies like machine learning and language processing, law firm data analytics is now a powerful tool when formulating a strong litigation strategy, forecasting case outcomes, and even obtaining new clients. By training computers to work with an immense amount of legal data, these machines can perform tasks at unmatchable speed, saving legal professionals and departments valuable time and money.
Applications of legal analytics
As a legal practitioner, you’re no stranger to legal research. Identifying appropriate law, like the right precedent or statute, could give you the edge to support and win your case. But conducting smart legal research that’s thorough and accurate can be a time-consuming process. Legal analytics tools can help you find relevant cases without having to sort through all of them individually on your own. For example, you can use ROSS to highlight statements in your pleadings and briefs to instantly search ROSS for cases discussing similar points of law.
Many legal research tools pay for themselves in terms of time saved, but for some, there’s no need to pay at all. We’ve put together a list of the best free legal research tools available.
Traditionally, preserving, collecting, reviewing, and exchanging case-related information was a long, tedious process. With e-Discovery software, exchanging electronic information between parties during litigation and investigations is a whole lot easier. However, in our digital age, there’s an immense amount of data to parse through for any given case. The need to narrow the range of documents for review by identifying swaths that can be culled out due to spam, personal documents, file types with no content, etc. can be overwhelming. With e-Discovery legal analytics tools, the process of deduplication technology and smart filtering makes the eDiscovery process more effective and efficient. This means instead of having to go through a large volume of documents, you can limit documents by date range or focusing on only those containing specific keywords.
Tools to use: Logikcull
With predictive analytics, foreseeing the future is no longer impossible. From forecasting how long a case will last to the likelihood of winning, predictive analytics can help attorneys reveal trends, correlations, and irregularities to build a case, devise a legal strategy, and evaluate suspects.
Law firms can also use predictive analytics in their hiring process to help them assess potential candidates and create the best team composition. Predictive analytics can help law firms cover all their needs—from deciding if they need external counsel, consultants, partners, or freelancers for projects.
To market your legal services to potential clients, you need to know what type of clients and cases you want your law firm to serve. Since not all matters are made equal, some may cost your law firm more and be less profitable than others. Legal analytics can help you figure out which cases are most profitable for your law firm, so you can market to the right clients.
Legal marketing analytics can also help you understand your ideal client and where you stand compared to competitors, so you can devise a more effective marketing strategy that best speaks to your ideal client.
In addition, legal marketing data can analyze where your clients are coming from, so you will know the best marketing channels and networking platforms to spend your marketing hours and budget on. For example, with software like Clio Grow’s legal client relationship management (CRM) platform, you can organize, nurture, and evaluate your potential new clients as well as existing clients for targeted, customized campaigns.
Law firm business insights are the backbone of a law firm’s success. Knowing which attorneys are contributing the most to your law firm’s profits, which marketing expenses lead to the most valuable clients, or simply if your clients are happy—are just some of the critical questions that law firm data analytics can help demystify.
By monitoring the right success metrics for your law firm, you can make a major impact on your firm’s revenue and growth. You can look at key performance indicators (KPIs) related to client acquisition, like the cost of acquiring a new client, the number of new clients by source, and the estimated average value of each new case. Legal analytics can also help you better understand productivity KPIs like the number of billable hours, the utilization rate (which is the number of billable hours worked divided by the number of hours in the workday), and realization rate (the number of billable hours invoiced divided by the number of billable hours worked) for your firm and for each attorney.
Armed with insights into your law firm’s performance trends, you can start being proactive instead of reactive. For example, if you’re monitoring billable hours and find that certain months of the year tend to be slower for your firm, as those slow months are approaching, you can dedicate more time to bringing in more business to prepare for the anticipated decrease in cash flow.
Overall, this data-driven approach can help you gain insights to help you make better business decisions and improve the productivity and efficiency of your law firm.
Tools to use: Law Firm Insights Dashboard in Clio Manage
Should my firm use legal analytics?
It depends. If you have large volumes of data to analyze and conduct deep search and would like to automate the repetitive task of filtering through so much data, legal analytics can help you save time and costs. These cost savings can ultimately get transferred to your clients. But if you’re looking to replace or outsource more specific tasks like validating if the data can support your case, we recommend still going through some cases on your own during your research process.
While there are many benefits to using legal analytics, including improving the efficiency of law firm and law department processes, improving legal professionals’ ability to make more informed decisions, and potentially decreasing the costs involved with legal operations and activities, it’s important to be aware of the limitations of legal analytics.
With the complexities and subjectivity (at times) of legal environments, it can be challenging to quantify and measure legal data. Most legal analytics platforms also depend on PACER (Public Access to Electronic Records), but misspelled and inaccurate information in PACER may result in attorneys making important decisions based on unreliable legal data. According to Law Technology Today, up to 60% of certain district court cases contain inaccurate information. This shows that you need to do your due diligence to verify that the legal data you’re using is as reliable and accurate as possible.
Legal analytics tools are also just that—tools. It’s essential to not expect legal analytics tools to do more than they can. For example, with legal research, you’ll still need to look through several cases and validate that those cases support yours. You may realize some results may be off.
Conclusion: The future of legal analytics
Undoubtedly, legal analytics is an exciting and promising field that’s made a monumental impact on the practice and business of law. However, as a growing area, it still has some hurdles to overcome—like inaccurate data in large datasets. In spite of that, legal analytics is a field that’s changing the way legal professionals inform their decisions, predict litigation outcomes, and improve legal workflows.
With valuable law firm data, you can make proactive and informed decisions based on the data available to you—like preparing for slower months. Whether you’re using legal analytics for legal research, business insights, or something else entirely, harnessing the power of legal analytics will give your firm the edge it needs to stand out to clients in a digital world.
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