2018 Will Bring Smarter, Data-Driven Law

Posted: January 12, 2018

A new year prods us to stop reflecting and start anticipating, so let’s get right to 2018’s crystal ball. Particularly intriguing are prognostications around data, artificial intelligence, analytics and machine learning – terms that overlap.

“2018 may be the year machine learning truly takes off,” writes Ed Silverstein in look-ahead story for  Legaltech News. Sixty-two thousand U.S. data science jobs are predicted for the U.S. by 2020. Regulatory burdens and the sheer volume of case material that attorneys contend with makes machine learning potentially valuable for firms that can harness it.

“Corporations understand the significant benefits of using machine learning, including the reduction of risk resulting from human errors and the increase of review coverage when time is a constraint, as it often is,” Andy Abbott, CTO and co-founder of Heretik, told Silverstein. “Corporations are also increasingly unwilling to pay steep fees for repetitive simple operational tasks like contract abstraction. They are, on the other hand, comfortable incurring higher costs for more strategically impactful work, something machine learning is empowering attorneys to focus on.”

Data driving profit

Along similar lines, firms are beginning to mine the data their operational systems are accumulating in creative new ways. DLA Piper is using analytics to improve client retention, reports Law.com in a look at “7 firms That Moved the Needle on Innovation in 2017.”

In a companion case study, the firm determined several factors that affected client retention at DLA Piper:

  • Reducing the size of matter teams to five or less and increasing time per team member proportionally where possible;
  • Introducing one new professional to the relationship;
  • Adding one more industry expert to the team (which could coincide with point two);
  • And running a focused, relevant marketing initiative for each client.

The firm acted on these in an initiative that reportedly translates into an estimated $37.6 million revenue increase.

Which firm is better?

Other observers see data analysis driving major client decisions like which firms to choose. For example, data can drive the dicey calculus about whether a big firm with a stellar reputation performs better than a boutique. “The widespread availability of meaningful, comparative law firm and lawyer performance data will allow side-by-side comparison of ‘the biggest and the best’ with the little-known up-and-comers,” Qualmet CEO James Beckett told Legaltech News in “ What 2018 Will Bring for Legal Tech.”

This information could upset the apple cart in unexpected ways: “The data will upend the status quo by showing that female partners better understand their customer needs and firms that embrace diversity deliver greater levels of innovation and strategic advantage for their corporate customers,” he said. “For the first time, corporations will be truly able to implement pay-for-performance and the status quo will forever be altered.”

More case throughput

Mark Lamber of Fennemore Craig P.C., sees data driving a more efficient legal system overall. “As ‘Big Brother’ technology continues to extend its reach, more of our activities will be monitored and recorded,” he writes in the Bluelock 2018 Legal Technology Predictions [log-in required]. “This information will likely grow more accessible, particularly in legal cases, and will allow lawyers to have a broader factual landscape to resolve cases. In English, this means that legal cases will get resolved more quickly.”


Creative use of data will reshape legal practice just like it is reshaping the rest of the world. We hope your 2018, whether driven by data or elbow grease, is a smarter, more productive and more profitable one.

Ron Carey

As Chief Revenue Officer at Esquire Ron is highly focused on delivering premium service to Esquire’s legal clients so they can build a better bottom line. He has expertise in sales, marketing, product management and is extremely focused on creating value for clients through efficiency, innovation and strategic vision.