Trade and Investment

Law and Data Analytics: A More Likely Union Than You Think

I got a call from the lady who makes my organic coconut oil some months back asking if I was around. I hesitated for some seconds because I wasn’t around- I was in Abuja for Law school. The big question was; how did she know? Her response to this was, the quantity of coconut oil I buy usually lasts a month and a half before she receives a message from me by the 4th week confirming whether there are fresh coconuts in-store before we eventually complete the transaction on the 6th week.

I am aware of how brands like Netflix use data to predict customer behaviour and spending patterns. Yet, it took my vendor’s generated customer insights through repurchase patterns and time gaps between transactions for it to feel real. Harvard Business defines data analytics as the process of collecting, cleaning and evaluating data to generate insights and make accurate & informed decisions on everyday problems. 

An undeniable fact Is the overwhelming presence of data and what we have is data analytics now being used to drive more informed decisions across various sectors around the world. The legal industry is not exempt as the ways data analysis can enhance its processes are endless. While researching for this article, I discovered that data analytics and legal process are very similar. I mean, people hear of data analytics and think tech and until recently, tech and law were at opposite ends of the spectrum (especially in Nigeria) but, data has always been a part of the law, whether it is lawyers making predictive analysis from their expertise or drawing insights from past data (cases and judgments).

Two Sides of the Same Coin
Both of these professions involve using logic and analytical ability to solve problems. Lawyers and analysts tend to be critical thinkers as they yearn to go beneath the surface of the problem, figuring out the “why” so they understand the root cause of the problem. The nature of a lawyer’s job does not afford them the room to bypass having a keen eye for detail; missing ‘small’ things could result in huge implications. Similar to analysts, mistakes in any size or form could compromise the accuracy of the overall analysis.

A glaring difference between both is that, unlike analysts who rely on hard data to solve problems, lawyers depend heavily on their knowledge, experiences and legal research skills. These skills are remarkable, but they mostly yield subjective results. Leveraging data analytics in law practice will provide insights on whether matters should get settled or litigated and predict court process costs, length of time, assess outcomes using historical data, and so much more.

Over the past few years, we have witnessed the rise of commercial awareness as one of the key skills in the legal profession. A two-pronged concept means: grasping the client’s business beyond the problem they have and understanding the law firm as a business. There is no outcome where data analytics does not improve client experience. It goes from using data from similar businesses in their environment to predict outcomes & case duration to highlighting why the firm should get the job using experience and competitor analysis.

Despite the industry’s willingness to use data analytics, the pace at which it is adopting these processes is slow compared to other sectors. The adoption journey has even been lengthier in Nigeria, where the legal industry is more conservative. It could profit from its descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive analysis.

The Difference Legal Analytics Tools Make
Legal analytics are making huge strides with revolutionary analytic products like Everlaw and, Lexis Nexis’ Lex Machina, a legal analytics mammoth that provides insights on case processes and litigation strategy. It predicts the judge’s behaviour in the decision of cases including, analyses opposing counsel’s experience before specific courts and judges, evaluates parties in the case, length of similar cases, calculates damages using legal processes and litigation information. Legal Databases like Westlaw and Lexis Nexis also exist to provide ready access to legal data.

The foremost legal analytics company in Nigeria is Law Pavilion which launched in 2016, with the electronic law reports library- PRIME as its primary offering. Judicial precedents and legal data, though substantial in decision-making in Nigeria are fragmented, which poses difficulty to its legal system. The Law Pavilion database is not without its shortcomings but has improved legal research over the years and birthed their legal software- Primsol. Primsol, a legal analytics tool, leverages its legal database to provide case analysis and contrast. Primsol boasts of an extensive data bank of templates, court forms and 61 years’ worth of consolidated index to simplify the Nigerian lawyer’s experience.

Acknowledging Nigeria’s progress though slow in fully adopting legal analytics means highlighting its specific challenges too. Generally, having access to a pool of useable data is still a challenge in Nigeria. This dearth exists due to underfunded data publishing agencies. There is also no official council of legal reporting in Nigeria, so there is a lot of repetition from private bodies. Neither is there a regulatory body to regulate the quality of law reports in the legal space leading to obsolete data that may not reflect the current position of the law. The government has to show some will by encouraging investment and highlighting the benefits of exploiting data by creating an economic environment that would support growth. The private sector can only do so much.

Bottomline
It may be unrealistic to ask lawyers in Nigeria after all the years of study, including Law School to return to study data science at this point, for many reasons that include; time, finances and even a lack of interest. One thing, however, is constant, and it is that the business environment is fast-paced and constantly changing, and lawyers need to adapt. With legal analytics comes the automation of many legal processes, which may frighten lawyers at first but create new jobs eventually. The analytics will reveal patterns, but the lawyer still has to do the legal analysis and make the legal conclusions.

Practising lawyers already have some of the transferrable skills mentioned earlier. Therefore, learning primary data tools and communication of its results is a good start. It provides more options as legal-hybrid roles are cropping up slowly, firms are likely to start training their in-house talent before hiring data scientists and analysts. With these new skills, young lawyers are even primed for opportunities outside the legal industry and increase their abilities to pivot.

The world is moving away from the reflexive standard of addressing legal problems as they arise. Data analytics is not perfect as legal scenarios vary and are unique for the most part. Hence it still needs some of that subjectivity that lawyers naturally bring for balance. Legal analytics holds a bounty of promise by exploiting its power so law firms can optimise their processes from risk assessment to managing costs and maximising profits. It also creates a new hybrid of lawyer: one that can function in the firm and modern business environment.

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About Ida Gregory

Ida is a law graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, England. Her interests in energy law led her to a Masters in Oil, Gas and Renewable Energy from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. She is currently a student of the Nigerian Law School who intends to go into the energy Industry. In her spare time, she enjoys movies, reality tv shows and cooking