Analytics and the law: yes, but…


Sarah Sutherland, the author of the book. Source: Routledge

And this is where data analytics comes into play, according to Sarah Sutherlandwho has just published a book on the use of data in legal practice, Legal Data and Information in Practice.

Droit-Inc spoke to him.

“The innovation that the use of data allows can generate several business opportunities, and also allows to increase access to justice”, explains the general manager of the legal information site CanLii.

The fact is that even a small increase in the quality of information a lawyer provides to clients substantially increases the added value provided to clients, she says.

From a practical point of view, there are obviously significant gains that a legal department or firm can make by implementing financial management, productivity or performance management tools. Not to mention customer management.

But there is more: documenting legal opinions using machine learning or natural language, by analyzing case law, or even writing legal opinions for recurring situations, as is the case in inheritance law, are often cited. as examples of the promise of data analytics.

This is all well and good, continues Sarah Sutherland, but the fact is that the generation of data—whether it be court decisions to laws to corporate data—is done in a sparse way, and requires a lot of work to be done. brought together into a coherent whole.

And in Canada “we don’t yet have a well-defined framework for collecting and publishing data,” continues Sarah Sutherland. She gives an example of the different ways in which each jurisdiction publishes judicial decisions.

This is also the case all over the world.

Analyzing is hard

Not to mention that the analysis of case law still remains difficult on a large scale. Progress has of course been made, as with the standardization of citations in Canadian case law, “but contextual analysis, or taking into account variables such as cultural references” is less obvious for algorithms.

To overcome many of the problems inherent in data analysis—various sources, interpretation, personal data protection issues—Sarah Sutherland is embarking on the ambitious project of painting the picture of the situation.

With, in the end, the list of what it is possible to accomplish, and the challenges that remain to be solved so that the analytics applied to the law becomes second nature not only for the practice, but also for the analysis and especially research.

For example, the use of figures for statistical analysis is relatively common in the financial field. But how to transpose this type of analysis to case law?

Thus, “the application of artificial intelligence to legal data is problematic,” she explains; access to raw data is not that easy, not to mention that the management of data by the courts which publish their decisions is not done with the idea of ​​being able to analyze them.

Still, analytics can and should be integrated into legal decision-making. Sarah Sutherland offers a sober overview of what needs to be put in place to get there, while taking stock of the prerequisites for embarking on the adventure.

It thus presents a synthesis of existing techniques and their shortcomings, in addition to proposing an inventory of the skills and strategies necessary for the daily use of analytics.

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Analytics and the law: yes, but…

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