April 4, 2018 – What is the likelihood that a pending bill will be enacted? How likely is Judge Smith to grant a motion for stay? What is the average time to trial in a trademark suit in the Northern District of New York? Has my expert's testimony ever been challenged and if so what was the outcome? How much experience does Judge Jones have with wage cases? How often are her cases reversed on appeal? Does my opponent generally settle cases, and if so, how early? Does a proposed labor arbitrator tend to side more often with the union or with management?
These are the types of questions that can be addressed using legal analytics research tools.
You can use legal analytics research services to identify prior trends surrounding legislation, litigants, attorneys, judges, jurisdictions, intellectual property, M&A clauses, expert witnesses, and arbitrators – just to name some of the more common research applications.
With the exploding volume of data available to researchers, innovative legal analytics tools aid in sifting through masses of information to mine for likely outcomes, trends, and patterns. Attorneys who want to maintain a competitive advantage should consider the use of legal analytics tools, as the availability of and reliance upon legal analytics is forecasted to grow.
Finding the Forest in the Trees
The use of legal analytics in legal research helps enable legal practitioners to make informed decisions based on historical patterns, calculations, and trends.
Laura Olsen is a senior legal research specialist at Quarles & Brady LLP, Madison. She is a member of the Law Librarians Association (LLAW). LLAW's Public Relations Committee coordinates regular contributions by its members to InsideTrack.
The legal industry is ablaze with messages about how artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, and predictive analytics help drive efficiencies and reduce cost. Service industries, including the legal industry, historically have been slow to adopt new technologies.
Legal analytics has reached a critical mass and is now considered by many an indispensable legal research tool, particularly in litigation.
Increased competition in the legal market is requiring lawyers to invest in innovation to remain viable. Many research tools are available to help attorneys sift through vast amounts of data and information to analyze patterns and identify trends.
While this article focuses on the use of legal analytics in the practice of law, note that legal analytics plays a core role in the business of law, as well. Analytics also can also be used to support business development, marketing and cross-selling, customer relationship management, pricing and cost analysis forecasting, and even measuring a firm's gender diversity.
How Do Legal Analytics Research Tools Work?
Very simply put, legal analytics tools take large amounts of data and employ artificial intelligence, data harmonization, algorithms, and predictive coding, coupled with varying degrees of human vetting, to create interactive searchable databases. Pre- and post-search filters are used to customize searches by document type, jurisdiction, case type, date, and many other criteria.
Legal analytics tools can be used with researching case law, court dockets and documents, and legislation, among other legal sources. Data visualization is a key component with legal analytics tools. Customizable charts, graphs, tables, and heat maps create visual snapshots, which add meaning to patterns, trends, and relationships.
How Can Legal Analytics Inform the Researcher?
Prior to the advent of automated legal analytics research tools anecdata – or anecdotal data – was a prime source of information on a judge, attorney, or venue. While the opinion of a trusted colleague is often invaluable, fact-based information based on larger data sets often provides a more holistic picture.
Using metrics and analytics, you can answer simple litigation-based questions, such as:
How much experience a judge has with hearing certain types of cases?
What percentage of an attorney's trial practice has been with specific suit types?
What are the leading law firms in a certain jurisdiction in specific types of cases?
How busy are certain courts compared to others?
Legal analytics research tools can also answer more complex questions, such as a judge's average timing on deciding motions for summary judgment, the average time to trial for a specific suit type in a certain jurisdiction, or whether a judge likely to grant or deny a certain type of motion.
Legal analytics are used in forum selection, selection of outside and local counsel, and to size up the experience of an attorney, arbitrator, expert, or a judge. Legal analytics research tools can even help identify successful legal documents or similar cases, which can be used as models. Using legal analytics research tools helps attorneys conduct due diligence to be better prepared to make data-driven decisions and strategize accordingly.
Legal analytics tools can be used for decision support in the lifecycle of litigation. They can help you:
assess similar suits and related outcomes In the case assessment phase;
build strategy from evaluating forum selection, judicial tendencies, the opposing counsel, locating experienced local counsel, and evaluating an opponent's likelihood to settle or draw out a case;
budget a case by assessing average timing of a matter; and
evaluate experts and even predict a judge's typical motion practice.
Legislative analytics tools use predictive analytics and algorithms to assess the likelihood of a bill's passage through the legislative process. A visual meter indicates the probability of passing to the next legislative stage based on the political climate, the sponsor's influence and past success, among other criteria.
Metrics vs. Analytics
The terms “legal metrics” and “legal analytics” are often used interchangeably in the context of legal research. What is the difference?
Simply put, metrics are measurements or quantifiable attributes recorded over time. Analytics is the information that results from the analysis of these data and statistics.
For example, the fact that total filings in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin rose by 7.6 percent in fiscal year 2017 is a metric. The assessment that 2018 South Dakota Senate Bill 62 on data breach notification is very likely to be enacted is the result of analytics.
Both metrics and analytics have value in legal research.
Legal Analytics Research Tools in the Marketplace
The big four legal publishing and information solutions companies, Thomson Reuters (Westlaw), RELX Group (LexisNexis), Bloomberg Law, and Wolters Kluwer, all feature legal analytics functionality embedded in their research platforms.
Other companies offer practice area-focused, stand-alone legal analytics research tools, such as Docket Navigator, a tool for intellectual property and antitrust analytics research.
Lex Machina, acquired by LexisNexis in 2015, is one of the more popular players in the field, covering many practice areas, including labor and employment, commercial, bankruptcy, securities, products liability, intellectual property, and antitrust. In fact, Lex Machina registered the trademark "legal analytics" in conjunction with computer programs relating to analysis and development of legal strategy and litigation.
New analytics tools are joining the marketplace with frequency, often as the result of acquisitions. Earlier this year Fastcase expanded its legal analytics capabilities with the acquisition of Docket Alarm.
As with any legal research tool, do your homework about the underpinning algorithms, taxonomies, and datasets that power legal analytics systems.
Edify yourself on coverages dates, comprehensiveness, and whether the systems are entirely algorithm-based, or if they additionally use a level of human coding, vetting, and document tagging.
Federal litigation currently has stronger coverage within many legal analytics research tools, although coverage of state litigation is expanding.
Note that some legal research tools offer basic analytics information for free, but then require additional fees or subscriptions to get behind the paywall for more meaty information. These fees may be worth the investment, but understand what you are licensing before making a financial commitment. These tools tend to be costly, although the time-savings help justify the cost.
Harnessing the Power of Information
On its own, information is not power. It's the application of information, knowledge, and insights to answer questions and solve problems that indeed is powerful.
Using metrics and legal analytics to predict outcomes based on historical data and patterns allows attorneys to harness the power of information to make informed decisions.
Using technology to automate exhaustive research provides lawyers with more time to conduct higher level analysis and application of information to serve client needs.
Legal analytics tools will not write your brief for you or argue your case, but they will help inform the research you conduct to prepare for these tasks.