The practice of law has, for a long time and, perhaps for some, blissfully existed in a what would appear to the outsider like a static world. The mere mention of change would send shivers down the spine of even the most hardened cutthroat big law firm partner. For those on the outside or the outskirts of the legal profession, whenever you had a problem involving a law, you simply called a lawyer and the lawyer was tasked with solving the problem. Few questions, if any, were asked. Even through the 20th century this remained by and large the way things were when it came to practice of law.
Today, however, things are quickly looking rather different. To some, perhaps even a bit alien. Client expectations are starting to increase dramatically accompanied by increasing pressure being placed upon lawyers to do more work at less cost. Data, which some other industries have made extensive use of, is now playing an larger and larger role in how law firms and legal departments not just deliver legal services, but in how their own performance is measured. Each day, examples of data analysis being applied to the practice of law grow at seemingly breakneck speed.
To many who went to law school or who currently attend law school, the mere mention of the word data may bring to mind horrifying images of numbers and impenetrable formulas. It needn’t and shouldn’t be that way. Data should be welcomed by lawyers with open-arms and embraced as a powerful tool in the lawyer toolbox. One excellent way to get over this irrational and stifling fear is Ed Walter’s new book, Data-Driven Law. The book provides a highly accessible and wide-ranging overview of how data analysis in the context of the practice of law can result in lasting and meaningful outcomes.
Ed Walters is perhaps best known as the CEO of Fastcase, a leading legal publishing company based in Washington D.C. He is also known for his course called The Law of Robots taught at Georgetown University Law Center, where he is an adjunct professor of law. In Data-Driven Law, he has gathered together leading experts in the field of legal innovation and legal technology who share their respective insights on a number of growing areas of data-driven law. These experts include such individuals like Professor David Colarusso of Suffolk University Law School who developed the remarkable QnA open-source Markup tool. and Kenneth Grady as well as the singular William Henderson. Topics covered in the volume include such key topics like uncovering bias in big data, the innovator’s dilemma, and mining legal data.
Although I would describe myself as someone who is becoming better and better versed in the language of innovation and legal technology, I am not a native data scientist, nor do I have dreams of becoming one. Thankfully for me, this book is not written for one well-versed in data science nor does it assume a background in statistics or math. Anyone who is interested in the applications of data to the law will find the book illuminating, understandable, and useful. A bit of warning, however. The numerous detailed footnotes in several of the chapters can all-too easily lead one on an hours-long intellectual adventure.
Data-Driven Law is an important and welcome contribution to the burgeoning literature around data and data analysis as applied to the practice of law. It is to Ed Walter’s tremendous credit for his ability to bring together so many leading experts to help illustrate and demonstrate to the skeptical or resistant legal professional just how much of a true gold mine data as well as its myriad of applications to the law, can truly be.