June 2015 Bar Bulletin
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June 2015 Bar Bulletin

Law's Game Changer Will Be Data Analysis

By Robert WM Zierman

 

For all its professed rationality, law in the main has been extremely slow on the uptake of computing power. Yet, computing power, with the exception perhaps of the ability to harness the good and evil of fire, is perhaps the greatest advance of mankind.1

Failing to move forward to adapt computing power is the equivalent of cavemen looking down over the sweep of the savannahs and prairies to see bonfires scattered about and deciding not to "come out of the cave." Well, why should they? Everyone down there has always envied the caveman's superior shelter and as such there would be no reason to envy whatever that light was that others were gathering around to keep themselves warm, cook their food and keep predators at abeyance.

As we can hopefully all agree, the Pandora's Box of computing power has been opened and we will never be able to legislate that it be shut. In an incredibly short period of time, we have gone from a situation in which information was scarce to our present situation in which we have information in abundance. As a result, instead of attempting to keep a lid on it, and because there is such a surfeit of information, to find anything useful is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Bring on data analytics, which allows us to move far beyond the now seemingly quaint high school chemistry class notion of ceteris paribus by which we "kept all other things equal" in order to control the observation of an experiment. Instead, data analytics allows terabytes of "observations" to be put through a funnel of computation with the end result identifying sets of patterns also generally accompanied by predictive values.

Hmm? Predictive values - could this possibly assist the legal industry to move beyond its "on the one hand, yet on the other hand" and "try-all" approaches to litigation? The answer to that question is a firm "yes."

As anyone who has read the byline to my articles in this publication over the last three years knows, I have been focusing my attention on the law of quiet title/adverse possession. Why should I deign to focus on an area of law that generates so much frivolously expended emotionality? It is certainly not because the work is a barrel of laughs. What's more, in and of itself, the law in this arena is certainly not my highest and best use.

The reason I have remained focused on this area of the law is because it has been the right-sized "sandbox" to allow me to work through a number of concepts related to how data analysis may be used in the legal arena to offer case prediction up front, instead of blithely leading clients into the fog of litigation.

As to mechanics, what I have discovered through reading and "scoring" (i.e., identifying recurrent facts) is that patterns, albeit not perfect, do emerge. These patterns do in turn allow prediction. How tight is this prediction?


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