Big data and the legal community

What are the key aspects of big data and visualisation, and the possibilities that these open up to legal practitioners

Legal Data

While big data finds multiple uses in the client work undertaken by law firms, legal research has been the slow and sometimes forgotten companion. But it is now beginning to quickly catch up

The problem regarding how to manage big data confronts many businesses. It is increasingly resolved by using information management strategies, which combine different types of data along with traditional data.

At an individual level, big data is ubiquitous, ever faster and more capable in the storage and transfer of personal information. New computer systems enable these vast data sets to be analysed so that patterns, trends, and associations can be determined to predict outcomes with greater certainty. This is especially valuable for legal practitioners when there is an ever-increasing amount of data available for analysis.

Lawyers who use systems that support new cases, legislation and judgments are therefore able to exploit the digitisation of historic data and new data as it is captured. But there is a problem.

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Despite their increased availability, large data sets are not yet much easier for lawyers either to manage or to access. Innovation in the use of that data has been slow in coming, making this big data challenge frustrating for lawyers everywhere.

Currently, the application of big data for lawyers is directed chiefly towards helping law firms to improve their internal business processes, like billing and time management, or for predictive analytics in AI-type applications.

New document and contract management systems abound, as tech companies compete with one another to create new platforms that organise and analyse data, delivering real value in the time saved when producing documents, or as a predictive tool.

Far less attention has been given to the innovation and development of tools for the case preparation and research elements that can be integral to the advisory work of a lawyer. The result is that those engaged in legal research – students, academics and practitioners – are routinely deprived of straightforward access to the data that they need because they do not have the relevant tools to undertake their research effectively.

Traditional legal research companies hold databases that contain substantial volumes of case information going back over centuries, often across multiple common law jurisdictions.

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Legal researchers invariably use them as the default place at which to start, even though they are primarily search engines offering little in the way of advanced analytical tools. Other researchers have no need to analyse historic legal data, instead wanting to access only new incoming data.

Although they are the standard default for the majority of those engaged in legal research, conventional platforms do not provide appropriate technology which fully supports the terabytes of data which they store.

What users really need are platforms that provide comprehensive technological support and which enable researchers and practitioners alike to review all the case law that is continuously created and made available online.

To meet this demand, JustisOne has been designed. As a legal research platform operated by Justis, it endeavours to make the full spectrum of judgments – reported and unreported – both accessible and practical for users. Because data analytics are an automated part of the research process, the platform makes it possible for practitioners to focus more on the details of each case rather than having to pore over judgments to find supporting case law. To deliver this, Justis uses sophisticated technologies, which are not currently combined by any other existing provider.

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Key Paragraphs is one of the analytical tools employed. A simple, but very efficient way of examining key aspects of any published judgment, it highlights the paragraphs which are most often cited in other cases, and then provides a link to the pertinent parts of those cases where they are discussed.

In addition to cross-referencing, the Justis team of legally qualified editors are also able to analyse the treatment given to each case by the judgment. Practitioners can then see immediately the status of the law by referencing a wealth of relevant judgments.

Another supportive element is the unique data visualisation system. This allows an individual judgment to be seen in the context of every other case where it has previously been referenced.

In this way, practitioners can see in an instant which other cases have discussed or alluded to the current case, together with the relevance of each case, ordered by date, and their degree of influence on each other.

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For innovation to be effective and useful, it does not have to be complex. In increasing the efficiency of legal research, even simple innovation can have an impact. Integral features like SourceLink which can be accessed alongside content from other platforms that is indexed and links directly to the source, and a legal taxonomy comprising more than 1.5 million search terms – all help to simplify the research process, speed up the work of practitioners, and make more time available for other tasks.

While big data finds multiple uses in the client work undertaken by law firms, legal research has been the slow and sometimes forgotten companion. But it is now beginning to quickly catch up.


Sourced by Robin Chesterman, head of Product at Justis


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