Knowledge@Wharton, The Next Legal Challenge: Getting Law Firms to Use Analytics:
Dave Walton is among the rarest of lawyers, one who is dedicated to expanding the use of big data and predictive analytics in the legal field. It’s a tough challenge because the sector is inherently risk-averse. But Walton, chair of Cyber Solutions & Data Strategies at Philadelphia-based Cozen O’Connor, is determined to effect change in the sector.
Wharton marketing professor Raghuram Iyengar, who is faculty director of Wharton Customer Analytics, recently joined Walton for an interview with Knowledge@Wharton about the challenges of getting lawyers to embrace analytics, and the benefits they stand to gain. Iyengar also teaches an executive education program titled, Customer Analytics for Growth Using Machine Learning, AI, and Big Data.
Knowledge@Wharton: The legal field layers on top of just about anything we can imagine, which creates a lot of analytics challenges. What are some of those challenges?
Dave Walton: I think the legal field is still in its infancy on analytics and big data…. We’re still trying to figure it out, and there’s still a lot of consternation in some corners about what is analytics? What does it mean to be a lawyer? Lawyers have this idea that, “Well, my brain was trained. My judgment is everything. My personal experience is everything. There is no way a computer could ever do my job.” That’s what they mistake analytics and AI for. A lot of lawyers don’t understand it’s using data to supplement your judgment, your experience and your decision-making process, and perhaps seeing things that you wouldn’t otherwise see because you have access to data analytics and data expertise. ...
Knowledge@Wharton: How rare is it to have a data scientist on staff at a law firm?
Walton: Very rare. I think your most progressive firms are doing that, but you also run into some internal battles at law firms because lawyers have a tendency to look at IT as being the panacea for everything that’s technology-related, including analytics. Data science and IT — it’s a different skill set. It’s like being a tax lawyer and a personal injury lawyer. We’re both lawyers, but you wouldn’t want your tax lawyer trying your personal injury case, and you wouldn’t want your personal injury lawyer doing your taxes.
A lot of law firms still kind of see IT as the panacea for all this, and they put too much on IT’s plate and get mediocre results. If you’re going to really be serious about using analytics and about being innovative in a law firm, you have to be in the fast lane. You have to be able to iterate over and over again because you have to experiment, learn, pivot. And then that’s how you get ahead. ...
There’s not a lot of analytics in the law right now. Data scientists are moving away from Silicon Valley, because it’s so crowded, and saying, “Where are the other opportunities?” I think law is a prime opportunity.