Comment: Big Data – A Modern Way to Manage an Ancient Profession

by Stewart Hadley, Enterprise Account Manager, Avention
Information is the lifeblood of the legal sector, used in everything from the creation of new legislation to business development. However, it is clear from speaking with my customers that the sheer volumes involved can become overwhelming and unmanageable if suitable solutions are not put into place.
One of the most common challenges I hear about is the effective storage of case records. Firms have traditionally stored hard copies but due to the sheer quantity, these are basically impossible to use in any meaningful way. This is where big data comes in: digitalising this information makes it far more accessible for the purpose of research, and algorithms can also identify correlations between cases, even making predictions based on this information. This not only saves countless hours on research, but also saves firms money as they no longer require large storage facilities. Much of the information retained by law firms will quickly become out of date – or duplicated – but data management services like Avention’s Match & Append can clean up a firm’s databases by applying sophisticated algorithms to compare the information with Avention data, correcting and filling gaps wherever necessary. With such data tools available, it is no surprise that the vast majority of my clients cannot imagine running their law libraries now without them.
I am also often asked what role big data can play from in an operational sense – how can it help a law firm to run its business more efficiently and more profitably? For any firm, the ability to bring in new business is paramount and crucial to its continued success. When looking to identify potential new clients, accurate and actionable information is key, as knowing exactly who to target is central to establishing an effective business development strategy. Business information solutions can help. Avention’s SmartLists feature, for example, enables law firms to build lists of high-potential prospective clients, based on criteria such as business behaviours, M&A activity or traditional attributes like location or revenue. These lists are updated in real-time to include organisations as soon as they meet the required criteria. Meanwhile, Avention’s Business Signals, which score companies, industries and people against 1,200 business criteria, can enable a firm to better understand a business’ activities – like what countries it’s doing business in or whether it has closed a funding round – identify emerging trends and pinpoint new opportunities.
In terms of day-to-day client management, I encourage customers to take advantage of the huge amount of business information available to them through the Avention platform: the legal industry is extremely competitive and firms need to stay ahead of the curve. Lawyers can build credibility and trust within their existing client relationships by using industry, company and executive intelligence firms to craft personalised messages and be more effective in face-to-face meetings. A thorough understanding of a company’s structure, relationships and executive business interactions can also prevent potentially embarrassing and costly conflicts of interest within client accounts.
Law firms are fast-paced places and lawyers are busy people: thankfully, there are a number of ways in which big data can shoulder some of the burden of running an efficient and cost-effective firm – both operationally and from the point of view of a practitioner. Law may be one of the oldest professions in the civilised world but thanks to the big data revolution, it is increasingly a thoroughly modern industry.