Everyone seems to want data – and more of it – whether to analyze a decision, develop a strategy or to pick the best running back for their fantasy football team.

The Power of Legal Analytics session at AALL 2016, moderated by Sarah K.C. Mauldin, director of library services, Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP, opened with a basic discussion regarding the definition of legal analytics. The panel, represented by Stefanie A. Frame, research services manager at Foley & Lardner, LLP, Jeremy P. Gresham, director of finance at Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC, and Gregory Leighton, partner at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg, LLP, defined legal analytics as the use of data in the decision-making process and not simply statistics, graphs or pretty pictures.

A key take away from the panel, which was received with a fair amount of head nods and light laughter: “Lawyers are used to dealing with the anecdotal world and not the data-driven world.” The panel did encourage the use of legal analytics in both the business of law and practice of law to put context around specific information that can then be used for strategic decisions. They noted that there are a plethora of tools available to help deliver the data, but they reminded the room that if the data is unusable, then all the efforts were fruitless.

As this area has seen exponential growth, many legal departments request data during the RFP process. But just as clients, and potential clients, are seeking data to make a decision, firms should leverage analytics to evaluate matters and see if they are a good fit for the firm. Through the discussion, the group noted that legal analytics will progress and evolve, especially as cognitive computing, machine learning and predictive coding improve and are embedded deeper in the legal professional world.

So the next time you present data, make sure there is context provided enabling that information to be used as part of the strategic decision-making process. And the next time you request data, spend time with the experts allowing them to ask a few questions so the right data can be delivered.