As would be expected in such large companies, early use cases for Big Data included conducting sentiment analysis on the social experience, clickstream analysis on customer buying patterns, and web log analysis for security and fraud detection. These have been a major focus in promoting Big Data.
While identifying information such as who is viewing your webpages and what pages are being hit may be of interest to a law firm, this can be achieved without spending large amounts of money on Big Data, and for law firms not necessarily a cost-effective reason to invest in Big Data.
Big Data doesn’t need to incorporate all the ‘V’s’ we discussed earlier. This may be especially true for law firms. Internally, there may not be the variety in database platform or even the volumes associated with commercial enterprises. That’s fine – size isn’t the issue. What is critically significant is the data that sits internally in all law firms, such as emails, documents, and other sources that can be mined within the confines of a law firm’s current data structure. There is value here in tapping into this data – the issue is defining the use and a strategy to explore the data including:
Use historic data for predictive analysis: Law firms have large volumes of data locked away in old files, usually manually filed away and difficult, if not impossible, to use in any meaningful way. Digitising this data would allow firms to use the data in new cases in a myriad of ways. It can be used to link like cases together and therefore predict the possible outcomes and processes required for new cases. It can also be used to determine whether a case is likely to be profitable, allowing the firm to determine quickly whether a particular case should be taken on at all. Some of this can be done today, but opening up all the case file details will deliver a far richer vein of information on which to predicate a decision point.
Pricing surety through analytics: Using external operators dealing in eBilling you can determine the acceptable price range for particular types of work. A number of eBilling organisations have large volumes of pricing information, and they make this information available to your clients by identifying when pricing is outside of acceptable variances. Streamline your processes by using this data in your initial pricing proposals and improve your time to payment by reducing the number of pricing discussions with clients.
Improve your business development strategy: Review your emails and documents to get contacts out and compare this to your CRM or marketing lists. You have immediately extended your contacts within the firm, and, if you take it a step further, you can correlate who are the decision makers and who are the influencers in particular practice areas. Knowing who to target can make a difference to winning work and developing more effective business development programs.
Streamline your processes by identifying client reactions:– Using email data to identify negative responses to bills and identifying what has caused the negative reaction has allowed firms to improve their client interactions and also to improve their cash flow. In some cases it has allowed them to identify words or phrases that have a negative impact on their clients’ acceptance of bills. Identifying where certain wording creates an issue has allowed firms to red-flag these words/phrases, resulting in improved client interactions and fewer impediments to payment.
There are certainly many more ways law firms can leverage the combination of unstructured and structured data.
E-discovery using Big Data- The emergence of predictive coding or computer assisted data review is changing the way and amount of data that can be reviewed. When this is combined with the use of analytic and data-mining tools across Big Data the process is starting to have major implications and impacts on e-discovery practitioners. Effectively you can now review far larger amounts of data and use this for case analysis or building a risk profile to better understand probable outcomes.
There are certainly many more ways law firms can leverage the combination of unstructured and structured data. The key is that it allows you to gain further insights into your firm and your relationships with your clients so that you can take steps to improve.
Big Data does not require expensive hardware or high-end processors, meaning that while there is a cost to storing the data, it is by no means prohibitive. This does not mean that there is no significant cost in implementing a Big Data solution. Obviously, holding the data does have a financial cost. Whether or not the servers and storage are low cost, they still add to the overall IT spend. In addition, and probably far more significant, is the fact that this is a new technology to most. Because of this, expertise in the Big Data arena is at a premium, and firms are likely to encounter large costs in labor when securing this expertise.
It is also costly to bring this expertise in house. Experienced resources are commanding large salaries, and attempting to grow this knowledge internally will come at a cost in time and effort. It is highly unlikely that the expertise currently exists in your firm today.
No matter what your thoughts are about Big Data, it is an unassailable fact that the volume of data we face is increasing, and a large amount of that data is unstructured. According to a recent Gartner report, “enterprise data.. is expected to grow by 650 per cent in the next five years.”
A June 2013 IDC study found that the world’s data is doubling every two years, and that businesses will “manage 50 times more data, and files will grow 75 times more in the next decade.” Being able to glean information from this data can put your firm in a strong position to be more proactive and help grow and protect your business.
The Big Data solutions aren’t really offering anything new. People have been gleaning facts off data from its outset. What has changed is that Big Data options make this more accessible to the general user community and present the data in a more consumable and understandable way.
Firms should look at what they are currently gaining from their data, both internally and externally, and identify where they wish to gain further insights. As data continues to grow, the need to understand what that data can tell us will become a crucial tool for any business. More importantly, over time it is likely that Big Data and what it offers will become ubiquitous within most business environments. Failing to take advantage of Big Data will put you at a significant disadvantage over those who have invested in it.
While there are still hurdles to overcome in the legal fraternity, particularly around data security, they are in no way unassailable, and it is worth taking the time to review what it is that Big Data may be able to provide your firm.
If you are considering entering into the Big Data arena be clear about what it is you are trying to gain from the initiative. Many projects launched are failing simply because companies have decided to enter the Big Data arena without having a clear idea on what it is they hope to gain. Start slowly and define what your key goals are. Defining the expected outcomes and what you wish to review will go a long way toward ensuring that the launch of a Big Data project has the best chance of success.
The author is product manager at legal software provider Aderant.
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