Lawyers unlock valuable insights through data | 7wData

Lawyers unlock valuable insights through data | 7wData

For today’s legal practitioners, the most effective innovations can simply involve making better use of what they already have: vast amounts of data. And this better use of data can deliver benefits for both their clients and their firms.

As our winner, Alexander Oddy, shows, identifying the variables that affect dispute resolution cases can transform a decision on whether to settle or litigate from an imponderable into a percentage game — recovering more at lower risk.

Equally, data points on past cases and lawyers’ timecards can ensure the cost to clients is much more predictable. But data analysis is nothing without a framework on which to share it, which makes lawyers’ work on developing data trust networks especially valuable.

Perhaps the neatest innovation, though, combined the new with the old school: using data to see where in the world projects have been underperforming but then pounding the pavement — not the keyboard — to get the full story.

Profiles compiled by RSGI researchers and FT editors. ‘Winner’ indicates the individual won an FT Innovative Lawyers Europe 2022 award

As a co-leader devising HSF’s global data strategy, Alexander Oddy unlocks valuable insights. For example, he created Project Jigsaw, a tool that gives clients accurate cost predictions based on previous outlay. Oddy is also behind the firm’s Legal Privilege app, a free tool to help clients decide if a document is legally privileged by guiding them through a questionnaire.

One standout innovation was a “decision analysis” service to help clients make strategic choices in disputes. Rather than making decisions, such as whether to litigate or settle, based on a lawyer’s judgment, the firm uses decision trees that show the likelihood of various outcomes. In 2018, the service was used to advise SBM Offshore, a Netherlands supplier to the oil and gas industry, to reject an initial offer in a dispute related to an insurance claim. The client went on to recover a far greater amount.

A partner in the international business reorganisation team, Cynthia Chan saw how the complexity of large multi-jurisdictional projects led to lots of documents repeating information in different ways.

She led the development of automation software to standardise information and reduce human error. It has been used in more than 2,000 client projects and led to savings of about £400,000.

Chan hopes this tech will give lawyers a greater chance to focus on higher value, more interesting work — and to spend less time on the drudgery of document review.

Chan is also behind a data visualisation tool that presents summaries of transactions to clients. Greater insight can speed up strategic decisions.

Jannan Crozier led the rollout of a programme to put lawyers, project managers and tech experts on an equal footing, and to help them to improve collaboration. Before working together, project managers with expertise in seeing the big picture were trained in legal nuances, while lawyers learnt about technology and were urged to push it to the limit.

The effect of this programme was clear in 2021 when Crozier and her team advised Olam International. The food and agribusiness wished to split, but issues such as global grain interests and international shipping made this complex.

Using project and matter management technologies, the company was successfully divided and one of the new entities was listed in London.

In a dispute between a chemical plant and an engineering company that is yet to be decided, Roberta Downey implemented a case management system using technology to better organise documents. She also encouraged young lawyers to take ownership of processes.

When big projects end in a dispute, they usually involve arbitrations over an extended period. This is costly and time-consuming. Downey’s work cut the length of arbitration from up to 10 years to two.

Downey also hosts global conferences in which barristers and experts role-play fictional case studies.

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