ANALYSIS: ILTACON’s three tips for leveraging data in the legal field

The International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) held its annual conference at Maryland’s National Harbor in late August, with more than 3,000 attendees, including legal operations and legal technology leaders, law firm professionals lawyers and businesses, as well as academics.

The week included a series of educational sessions, a large vendor showroom and many exciting meetings as renowned legal professionals from around the world came together for the first time in person since 2019.

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, legal departments continually face new challenges to keep up with the changing legal landscape. It follows, then, that access to data, improved legal operations strategies, professional development opportunities and DEI initiatives were the main themes discussed at this year’s ILTA.

While many legal professionals are beginning to embrace and improve on these areas, there is still a long way to go to bring the profession up to speed. Each theme referenced above and tips for implementing them will be discussed in more detail in our three-part series on the ILTACON conference.

All data

The first topic in our ILTACON series is urgent: how to bring data to the forefront of the legal industry and integrate it into the practice of law.

Developing general data literacy, hiring data-savvy employees, and initiating data collection are three concrete steps legal organizations must take to achieve this. And conference panelists emphasized that firms and legal departments should not fear data, but rather collect and integrate it effectively into their practice to maintain a competitive edge.

For legal professionals looking to begin their data journey, ILTACON has highlighted three steps legal departments can take to mine and collect data to make the overall process less overwhelming.

1. Identify all business needs.

The hardest part for many companies and legal departments when it comes to data is getting started. With the amount of data circulating within the legal profession, it’s understandable that the whole process of data collection can seem tedious.

But it’s important to remember that collecting and maintaining data, while essential, is only so useful: organizations should also think about the broader goals of data collection in order to prepare the team for a long-term success. According to ILTA presenters, focusing on the potential impact of the data – or the “why” – will enable efficient and consumable collection.

More likely than not, the data collection is driven by the need to answer a business question, such as which lawyers should be assigned to which cases, or whether employees are using the software effectively. Determining the business questions that need to be answered should be the first step in an organization’s data journey.

Defining the “why” also allows organizations to assess the sources they already have to answer these questions. Fortunately, businesses and legal departments have dozens of data sources, such as external data from vendors, intake information from clients, and case documents from attorneys.

Employees are also valuable resources. For example, support staff are often responsible for maintaining a company’s records, making them prime resources for case data such as on-site appearances, attorney involvement, and outcomes. cases and queries. Therefore, knowing who does what in the organization can be useful for data collection, said Yaniv Schiller, president of CourtAlert, during a discussion on breaking down data silos between departments.

It’s also likely that someone within the organization has already started collecting and storing data to some degree. Take advantage of this by using this data to kick-start strategy gathering and development to make the overall process less daunting.

2. Develop an appropriate strategy.

Once the business questions have been worked out and the data sources have been located, it is essential to develop a cohesive strategy for collecting, ingesting and analyzing data.

Data collection strategies should be specific to the business or legal department and designed to meet a current organizational need. This approach allows the collection strategy to remain flexible and adaptable to future uses. The key principles to consider when developing a data collection strategy are: governance, quality, access and management.

Ensuring the strategy is developed collaboratively across departments is crucial to avoiding data silos, which occur when one department controls data, making it inaccessible to others. Working in these conditions makes it extremely difficult to use the data across the board. Too many inconsistencies, such as different collection methods, inconsistent language, or software that doesn’t integrate with other services’ resources, can render data unusable.

Developing a strategy for all departments to implement from day one avoids these potential headaches in the future.

3. Work with people who understand the data.

Understanding data and how it helps answer the business questions developed in stage one is another critical aspect of leveraging data in legal departments.

Lawyers are not often seen as “data experts,” and therefore it will be important to implement effective ways to communicate about data. This could be achieved by adding data-specific positions to a team, such as data analysts or data scientists, or by focusing on improving the data literacy of the existing team.

Data literacy is generally understood as the ability to read, understand, make sense of, and communicate with data. Without it, the data is only so useful. Training all employees using data should be a priority for organizations to ensure everyone in the data collection process is on the same page. (Tips for developing effective training and professional development opportunities will be discussed in our latest ILTACON article.)

While hiring an external data scientist may not be the right decision for every company or legal department, a conference session on data scientists discussed the number of legal organizations that could benefit from the development of “Citizen Data Scientists”.

Panelist Lisa Mayo, Director of Data and Analytics at Ballard Spahr, explained what a Citizen Data Scientist is and how they can help an organization. Finding a Citizen Data Scientist can be as simple as working with someone in the company who is already technically proficient and training them to understand and then use data in more advanced ways, Mayo said.

Since these employees are already in an organization, there is no need to onboard someone new, so it is a time and money saving measure for the business. Adding data-specific employees to the team takes data understanding to the next level and makes the process easier for everyone involved.

Look out for the next article in our ILTACON series next week, which will discuss effective change management and legal operations strategies.

Bloomberg Law subscribers can find related content on our Legal Operations, In Focus: Legal Technology, and In Focus: Lawyer Development Resources.

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