When Data Wins the Case: Legal Analytics

It’s not what you wanted, but it’s happened anyway; you got served. No, not like that. Served. For real. With legal papers. Appear in court or else… As you desperately try to process everything, your mind is already telling you what you need to do: get the best lawyer you can find (or afford). That means a lawyer who can win the case. But who is that? Conventional wisdom tells you it’s the lawyer with the most swagger and spell-binding theatrics à la Jack McCoy of Law and Order or our own Gani Fawehinmi of blessed memory. Or is it?

Well, no. Not really. The best lawyers are those who have the best research to back their cases (theatrics are interesting to watch though). Legal cases stand or fall on the quality of the research behind them. From the most basic step in legal research, which is correctly identifying the issues in question, finding the leading cases and the different nuances in the face of ever-changing law, to the more complex areas of analyzing conflicting case law or pinning down fluid legal doctrines, research is what gets you over the line.

It’s a tedious, time consuming and very expensive process. The quicker and more accurately a lawyer can find the right information, the more time they can spend developing an effective strategy for your case. Enter, machine learning…yes big data!

Already a staple of most other industries, machine learning, in the form of advanced data analytics tools is beginning to rise as a solution in the legal profession. This goes beyond access to large databases – that type of thing has been available through LexisNexis for decades. This is different, the realm of Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms where computers leverage deep learning to turn raw, unstructured datasets into meaningful, intelligent information that lawyers can use to build a case.

Take Ross for instance. This algorithm scours through the entire body of U.S. case law and returns relevant legislation, judgments and other useful information within minutes. Other programs, such as BlueJ Legal, deliver insight into the direction the case is likely to go by analyzing the facts and findings from large datasets. In the end, not only can AI algorithms cut research time and save lawyers and their clients’ money, it could also “judge” the cases before they reach court. Every case can have a predictive score based on past historical judgement patterns.

Does this then mean that machine learning will soon replace human efforts in the legal profession? Not so fast. As valuable as machine learning may be in some respects, it still cannot replicate the cognitive abilities of the human mind – a critical aspect of legal practice. So, for now, let’s just say the best lawyer might soon be the one with the best AI algorithm.