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Statistics and Law Practice

Janice Arellano

Statistics and Law Practice

Law firms are no longer sustainable as mere paper pushing factories. Lawyers and law firm leaders need to learn to use and embrace statistics; it is not merely a scholarly endeavor. Statistical data can help lawyers make predictions about cases and case strategy and law firm leaders can determine how to effectively manage costs by tracking billing practices. In order to keep up with today's market and attract future millennial leaders who will inevitably learn empirical research in law, law firms must adopt business practices from other industries. However, many law firm leaders acknowledge that earning a profit is not just the primary goal of a firm. Firms must have a strategy to improve client satisfaction and build a positive work culture.

On December 3, 2015, a LexisNexis company called Lex Machina, introduced new data about trials before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The information will provide lawyers with the ability to make predictions about settlement and patentability. Lex Machina purports that the new research tool will allow attorneys to answer questions such as how often a specific law firm succeeded at instituting trials for petitioners and how often a specific judge relies on a statute. This type of data is critical for intellectual property attorneys but it also is applicable to a personal injury, criminal lawyer, and divorce attorney. For example, information such as a law firm's success rate before certain judges or settlement information on certain types of cases may assist both junior and senior attorneys to determine strategy on case and/or predict the next step based on previous and similar cases.

Empirical data and statistics on client base, billing practices, and case type success may assist a law firm in improving in any of these areas. For instance, if someone at a family law firm keeps track of client demographics and finds out that a certain percentage of their intake requires an interpreter in a specific, foreign language, it may be a positive business strategy to hire a paralegal or lawyer who speaks that language. There are also instances where billing practices are tracked and it is determined that discovery is costly and as a result certain types of discovery can be outsourced at an affordable rate rather than keeping that task in house. Based on survey responses for Huron Legal consulting, many areas of data analytics use include law department management, i.e., matter budgeting, legal project management (24 percent), outside counsel/law firm management (17 percent), and rate/fee negotiation (16 percent). 

Without the need to purchase statistical software, it may be wise for lawyers to begin using statistics and data tracking in their everyday practice. For example, simply keeping track of information such as case type, appearances before judges and outcomes on those cases, cost of settlement on certain cases, and tracking billing costs for certain assignments can go a long way in case strategy and ultimately increase success rates.