Big Data Goes Legal
Imagine you are an agent in the movie The Matrix. Your goal is to search out and destroy non-compliant humans. Your machine-god worshipping society feeds you live streaming data, allowing you to locate your target. The clock is ticking. The Matrix is the perfect allegory for the power and potential of data analytics. Find what you are looking for instantly by leveraging technology to analyze patterns and identify anomalies against massive data sets. How can a human possibly combat the power of an agent in The Matrix?
Well, they can! The Matrix is just data zeros and ones. In this case, green vertical lines running parallel on multiple screens, being read and interpreted by a living copilot in the “real world” who is able to see events, people and places, happening moments before they actually occur. The copilot has a semiclairvoyant ability to analyze patterns in streaming data and communicate pitfalls, dangers and dead-ends, inhibiting their comrade from a successful escape back to reality.
Now imagine you are an attorney. Your goal is to find the “smoking gun” that condemns or vindicates the defendants. Our technology-driven society currently creates as much data every two days as we did, in total, until 2003. The clock is ticking. How do you find relevant documents in time that will become evidence which will lead to a conviction or acquittal, or, perhaps more importantly, drive the financial consequences of a settlement or verdict? How can attorneys possibly combat the uncontrollable proliferation of data in today’s digital world?
Well, they can! Traditionally, attorneys approached the review of large document sets “linearly.” This involved having warehouses of contract attorneys review documents and code them with delimiters such as: responsive/non-responsive, privileged/non-privileged, hot document and more. Document reviews had attorney team leaders who educated the reviewers on what they were looking for and ran metrics on performance of the reviewers and their results. The results were assessed and used to shift the focus of the review toward potentially more relevant documents or sources of relevant evidence.
But in today’s legal environment, there could be billions of records to consider all coming from disparate data sources, including email, text, phone records, voicemail, calendar appointments, texting within gaming apps, instant messages, financial records, scanned documents, invoices and much more. A terabyte of data could contain more than 100 million records. Consumers are now purchasing terabyte storage capacity at discount pricing for home use. Imagine the depth, breadth and complexity of large corporate data repositories. Big data has invaded the legal process and made the practice of law far more technical than most attorneys ever imagined.
Attorneys are fighting back against the seemingly insurmountable onslaught of big data as it relates to their litigation practice. Legal analytics, a term often made interchangeable with technology assisted review or predictive coding, attempts to help an attorney be a “copilot” in the matrix of litigation, with big data guiding the focus and prioritization of data review and categorization. Leaders and innovators in the legal technology space are now in an arms race to create the most defensible, statistically validating tools to sift through data and locate the “smoking gun” as quickly as possible.
Careers are evolving for attorneys who specialize in developing unique workflows, creating seed sets, running search iterations, and thinking about exploring and examining data beyond traditional Boolean key word search. Tech-attorneys are emerging as lucrative professional profiles in the human capital of the legal landscape part attorney, part technologist. They are individuals who can maneuver in and out of the matrix, helping steer attorneys through the sea of data, in search of the truth.