This post was written by Pasquale Mignano, director of marketing for the Corporate Counsel segment of Thomson Reuters

While attending the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Annual Meeting, I had the opportunity to attend a collaborative panel session around leveraging data analytics within the corporate legal department.

The panel used a lively sports debate show format that made the learning more approachable and drew considerable audience participation. It also was extremely relevant considering that the San Francisco Giants won the World Series the previous night.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the session brought to you in the “Buy or Sell” format, popularized by ESPN’s Around the Horn:

  • Big [Data] is better – The concept of Big Data/analytics focuses on high volume and/or high velocity information assets that require new forms of processing to enable enhanced decision making insights, discovery, and process optimization. Recent research from Forbes.com shows that 84 percent of enterprises see Big Data changing their industries with 66 percent saying that they need to urgently adopt big data technology to avoid losing their market position. As it relates to the work being done within a legal department, analytics can help make informed, data-driven decisions.
  • What legal departments can learn from baseball – One panelist introduced the idea of “Litametrics.” As a baseball team’s general manager and staff use metrics to guide their transactions, team decisions and play development, so too could a legal department better guide their “team” with the use of Big Data metrics:
  1. Legal Spend Analytics = Player Salary Management; control, reduce, and justify spending.
  2. Strategic Case Analytics = On the Field Performance; select the right “team” using internal and external talent.
  3. Risk Reduction Analytics = Future Performance Expectations; diagnose and remediate future exposure and take preventative measures.

Much like there was initial negative reaction in some circles around leveraging analytics in baseball to evaluate players – scouts’ eyes vs. measured batting/pitching statistics – we may very well see something similar play out with using analytics in the legal department (i.e., some departments reticent in changing how they select outside counsel even if other options are better for the budget).

  • Can you leverage analytics to predict budgets and case outcomes? – The crux of the session came down to just how much we can do with analytics today and what may be available in the future. The panel and audience discussed five areas of where analytics can play a role – ranked by most feasible/available today:
  1. Matter budgets
  2. Discovery costs

Both the panel and the audience felt secure “buying” these two analytics levers given tools and processes available today (e.g., Serengeti Tracker) to help spotlight current spending patterns:

    1. Case outcomes
    2. Selection of counsel
    3. Selection of venue

Using analytics for these three purposes were a “sell” for the panel and the audience. They are thought to be further off especially as it relates to putting a good portion of the decision making into tools. There may always be a certain level of uncertainty around these levers and the analytics are not yet developed to better drive informed decision making.

In summary, using analytics in business and within legal department decision making is quickly becoming the norm, but there will always be a necessary human element to drive the informed decision making process – after all, as noted by Rob Thomas, vice president of marketing and communications for Thomson Reuters, who was in the audience, the players still actually play the World Series rather than just give the championship to the team with the best record or statistics.