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Will Predictive Analytics Change How You Practice?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on August 15, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Google uses data analytics to get the search results (and advertisements) it thinks are right for you. Wall Street looks to big data to help manage investment risk. Even police mine banking data to spot human trafficking.

Data analytics are changing how many industries work today, and they could soon reshape how you practice the law.

Big Data, Predictive Analytics, and You

You've probably heard the term "big data" a few billion times in the past few years. That's because "big data" is the big new thing. But it's not as mysterious as it sometimes sounds. Big data just refers to unstructured, unorganized data that can be analyzed for helpful insights. The words used in tweets, for example, can show us how public sentiment changes when Zayn Malik leaves One Direction or when Christmas Eve rolls around.

In the legal sphere, big data is still in its "nascent stage," according to Juristat's Sarah Garber, who recently called predictive analytics part of the "future of legal tech." By gathering and analyzing data on how judges have ruled, for example, we can predict which litigation strategies might be most successful, or identify the most persuasive precedent. Garber writes:

While this type of analytics can't tell an attorney whether this judge is particular about staying behind a podium during cross examination or likes his motions in a particular font size, it does allow an attorney to craft an argument using a judge's favorite case. In addition, such analytics can inform an attorney's strategy in litigating a particular case in terms of filing motions that a judge is likely to grant, rather than spending a client's time and money on motions that a judge hardly ever accepts.

Coming to a Practice Near You, Someday

The focus on data is becoming more and more common in certain parts of the legal sector, particularly in corporate legal departments. In-house attorneys, particularly in the IP sphere, have started to make data analytics and prediction more central to their practice in order to reduce costs and increase efficiency. That has led to novel in-house legal positions like database administrators.

Of course, predictive analytics isn't exactly an out-of-the-box service most lawyers can start using just yet. For the typical small and solo practitioner, big data and predictive analytics may be out of reach for the immediate future, but sooner or later you likely will be able to use streamline your legal strategies, if not pick the ideal font.

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