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Technology-assisted review. Machine learning. Natural language processing. Artificial intelligence. Legal analytics. Robot lawyers.
The terminology in today’s legal news headlines reflects the development of new technology designed to help attorneys save time and achieve a competitive advantage. While some articles may sound like science fiction, significant advancements in these areas are factual—and gaining momentum.
How can you identify the technology trends that have the most potential for your practice? First, it pays to think about where legal technology is going.
Pressures and Opportunities
Shrinking budgets and growing client expectations are forcing law firms and in-house legal teams to continuously improve productivity. Corporate clients understand the value of experienced, highly skilled legal minds, but are increasingly reluctant to pay high hourly rates for work routinely performed by junior law firm associates to assemble and organize evidence, conduct research and begin drafting documents.
At the same time, lawyers and law firms continue to stagger beneath the ever-growing volumes of legal data being generated: more than 14 million legal case decisions, tens of millions of legislative bills and hundreds of millions of regulations recorded in the U.S. alone.
But some lawyers are gaining a significant competitive advantage from the ability to mine knowledge and insight from all that data. Aided by analytic technology, they are driving efficiencies and vastly improving legal and business decision making.
Emergence of the Data-Driven Lawyer
Analytic technology will not replace lawyers. However, today’s exploding data volumes demand that legal professionals interact with data in new ways to increase insight and efficiency. Analytics and data visualization detect patterns and connections that no human—no matter how experienced or diligent—can perceive without the assistance of advanced tools.
Soon more attorneys will use technology to:
- Identify arguments with potential to support or refute a recommended case strategy
- Assess the tendencies and success rates of opposing counsel
- Generate a visual snapshot of a judge’s past cases and previous rulings
- View graphics that map out other lawsuits pending for the plaintiff or defendant
- Calculate the likelihood of settlement in those lawsuits
The Potential of Analytics
We are close to a future in which attorneys routinely apply a combination of descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics to litigation data to accurately estimate variables like time to trial, the potential value of a case and likely outcomes.
For this kind of legal analysis, advanced tools take massive volumes of data, structure it and strip out irrelevant or redundant information—then make it readily searchable. These are tasks that would take humans weeks, months or even longer to effectively complete.
Descriptive analytics mines large volumes of historical data and turns it into actionable knowledge and insight. Users can identify legal trends over time and analyze behaviors of participants in litigation.
- Semantic search helps determine the searcher’s intent and the contextual meanings of search terms.
- Search filters and recognition algorithms clarify legal terms that have different meanings in various jurisdictional or practice settings.
- Lawyers provide quality control and input on context and metadata.
- Data visualization—from search term mapping to presentation of legislative bill progression to review of patent images—helps users draw insights more quickly and efficiently.
Predictive analytics turns attention to what will happen in the future. Using statistical techniques to analyze current and historical data, this form of analytics makes reasoned predictions about future occurrences. This functionality may prove especially useful in practice are