• Tecnologia, Média & Telecomunicações

The time and turn of data-driven law firms

By Helder Galvão on

The Brazilian anthropologist Hermano Vianna says that writing about technology is like fighting against time: from the very beginning you already know who will have the last laugh: after all, the speed of technological transformation is inexorable.

In the legal market it is no different. To resist the advent of technology is to try, in vain, to stop the flow of water. The American jurist Mark Cohen, who will be one of the speakers at the 3rd edition of the Lisbon, Law & Tech event, points out that most lawyers are behind when it comes to the efficient use of data mining and analysis. According to Cohen, this compromises the ability of the legal function to operate as a business and to collaborate effectively with other business units for which decisions are based on or guided by data.

This failure would be linked to an insular and lawyer-centric culture, with an idiosyncratic language, corroborated by a technological primitivism and, above all, in the lack of dialogue with areas other than law. The theme, in fact, is not new. Almost ten years ago, the British jurist Richard Susskind already pointed to the need to overcome this cultural challenge, which he called the decomposition of legal services. Susskind suggests no less than 16 new sources of legal services for the market, among them legal open-sourcing, open banking, open justice and open source. As global trends and practices whose results have been catching the attention of organisations, they all depend, of course, on a new mindset among lawyers. But, then, what is the way to build authentic data-driven law firms?

Firstly, one should view data, especially structured data, as an essential element of client-centricity and a foundation for delivering fast, efficient, informed, predictable, accessible, affordable and fit-for-purpose legal services and products. All this is even more relevant at a time when most companies are looking for external and open innovation models, as in the examples of corporate venture capital, i.e. acquisitions of startups aimed at obtaining a competitive advantage, reducing costs and generating innovation in a shorter period of time.

The second aspect, according to Cohen, involves data architecture, which must reflect the corporate objective: a better customer experience. Data is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The legal function, like business, must create a culture and architecture that is data-based and designed for clients and society. How can a lawyer access, analyse, apply, share and protect data to enable faster detection, mitigation and early resolution of risks and ensure better-informed decision-making that positively impacts the firm and its clients? In this case, it is indispensable to develop an open justice environment, whose repository, among them judgements, precedents, defeated and victorious theses, is at the disposal of legal operators, mainly for the realization of jurimetrics, predictive analyses and a simple provision of expenses in audit reports. As one can see, therefore, building a pro data-driven law firms environment is also the role of the Judiciary.

On a third front, it should be noted that data currently plays a critical role in the practice of law, with data-driven legal functions not only streamlining legal business but also transforming its practice. In this regard, it is necessary to engage the application of data to challenge existing practice paradigms. Examples include litigation, contracts and risk management, the three biggest areas of legal spend. It may seem trivial, but data mining and advanced analytics in litigation enable the formulation of early case strategies, accelerate settlement discussions backwards from the front end of the process, and reduce late case surprises. In the area of contracts, data streamlines the drafting and negotiation process, thereby improving sales and customer relations by identifying key points of contention and causes of disputes.

The examples are even more extensive but, certainly, the three ideas above mentioned already allow us to foresee a path, without return, of the main points of data-driven law firms. After all, as the famous English detective Sherlock Holmes used to say: it is a capital mistake to theorise before having data.

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