Big data may be viewed as the term du jour and without any substance by many lawyers. However, the concept should not be dismissed completely because big data has the potential to significantly reshape the business of law. Consider that 90% of the world’s data has been generated since 2013, and that a number of estimates suggest that data globally is growing at a rate of 50% each year. With the depth and breadth of big data available now to law firms, practices that are able to best take advantage of big data, may be the ones that are best placed to be successful in a data driven future.
What is big data?
Reference to big data generally relates to data that can be parsed in order to gain further insight to customers or looking into where efficiencies may be increased. The essential feature of big data can be summed up via the “3Vs”; data that is high in volume, velocity, and variety.
Big data can not only encompass case documents or emails, but can also include social media posts, search engine inquiries, and website visits just to name a few other examples that many people may not consider as forms of big data.
How can law firms use big data?
Improving client satisfaction: perhaps the largest unstructured pieces of a data that firms possess are email, and it is through email where some significant customer insights may be gleamed. Big data analytics can be used to identify emotional client responses by looking at specific terms and phrases that may have had a harmful impact on client relations, such as matters relating to billing for example.
Timesheets can also be scrutinised to ensure that any lack of efficiencies are weeded out, while improving the level of detail of invoices.
There are also analytics tools that exist which will predict the length of time dedicated to certain projects based on historical data of cases similar in nature. There is no end to the depth of which data can be analysed which in turn, may help firms run their businesses more efficiently.
Looking backward in order to move forward: firms large and small have a potentially huge amount of historical data that can include case documents, file notes, and billing records that may provide a wealth valuable insights in relation to cases or practice matters.
Protecting customer data
Although big data has the potential to provide greater business insight than previously possible, Australian law firms must still keep in mind the Australian Privacy Principles are still applicable, and they must ensure that personal information is managed in an open and transparent manner.
Is big data analytics right for my firm?
Law has traditionally been risk averse, and utilising big data may be expensive and difficult at the initial stages. However, for firms that make the best use of big data, may be the types of firms that can potentially gain an immense competitive advantage over their competitors who are reluctant to harness the potential power of big data.