The data revolution is transforming every sector of the economy and the legal profession is no different. The ability of technology to track seemingly minor details of case history and make them accessible to an attorney at a moment’s notice is called legal analytics. It’s going to make the difference between a lawyer who is merely knowledgeable and one who actually wins cases.
Legal analytics is a broad term and it essentially compasses all the information that an attorney might wonder about as they’re preparing for a case. Everything from statistical data about the opposing lawyer, the judge on the case, the value of expert witnesses and even the particular venue where the case is being tried.
These were things that were previously known only anecdotally, by reputation or with very limited sample size. Legal analytics provides much more detail and then draws everything together into a cohesive presentation on the best path to win a case.
Let’s consider how this might look in a medical malpractice case. A lawyer represents a doctor’s office that’s been sued for a prescription that went wrong. The attorney has important decisions to make—dig their heels in and go to trial or reach out to settle. For how much? This defense lawyer will want concrete information about the following:
- What are the tendencies of the plaintiff’s lawyer? Are they afraid of the courtroom and thereby more likely to take a lower settlement offer?
- What is the expertise of the plaintiff’s lawyer? You may know they’re in personal injury, but that’s a pretty broad sphere. How many cases have they specifically tried in medical malpractice, as opposed to slip-and-fall or car accidents? Which expert witnesses have they used? Have those cases gone to trial or settled? How close was the final settlement figure to the initial offer made by the defendant?
- Speaking of expert witnesses, what is their track record? A person might be exceptionally intelligent but perform poorly on a witness stand. That might be reflected in cases where they appear having lower rates of success.
- What are the tendencies of the judge—are they a plaintiff’s judge or a defendant’s judge? If you need more time to prepare, how do the judges usually respond to various motions filed that are designed to buy a lawyer some time? Does a negative response to those motions portend bad news for the trial or the factors unrelated?
- Which lines of argument work best with this particular judge in this particular case?
All of these are matters attorneys already give thought to but lack data on which to make their decisions. Legal analytics won’t replace the need for smart lawyers—the law is still something run by human beings and it takes a good one to know how to navigate the process. But legal analytics are going to make good lawyers that much better.