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How to fight push back when accessing big data

A partner and senior counsel have shared how to get both reluctant clients and team members to realise the hidden value using big data can have in obtaining successful outcomes.

user iconEmma Musgrave 09 January 2019 Big Law
Technology, data
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Speaking on a panel at Relativity’s Relativity Fest, Jay Carle, partner at Seyfarth Shaw LLP and Kathleen McConnell, senior counsel at Seyfarth Shaw LLP shared the benefits of using big data and analytics to both a firm and a client’s advantage.

While using proactive data analysis has proven to work favourably in Mr Carle and Ms McConnell’s case, the pair acknowledged that there is sometimes some hesitancy from both clients and other legal professionals when it comes to utilising it.

“I think that one of the things that we see happen in litigation, as a defendant, I feel like our teams are often resistant to collecting information,” Ms McConnell said.


“… On the defence side, I think some of the natural inclination from there is generally a kind of push back about wanting to get data, and from clients, as well.

“[However] you should absolutely get involved with collecting it, asking for it, and analysing it. It’s very, very useful.”

Mr Carle added: “It strikes me that once the initial [hesitancies] are overcome, in terms of understanding the data, figuring out how to get it, etc, that, as a go forward it can be extremely powerful. It’s not just for use in defending litigation, but it could be used to understand risk on an ongoing basis”.

For example, Mr Carle noted that utilising data such as this can be particularly helpful for those companies operating in multiple jurisdictions.

“In some respects, we kind of become a warehouse for this kind of data … You might have a risk in this area of the country. [We can say to the client], ‘We see a lot of complaints over things going on over there. Let’s look at your hiring practices. Maybe you’re not as diverse in this area of the company as you need to be’.

“You can do a lot of proactive analysis to identify risk, and strategically deploy resources, and training. Whatever you might need to do.”

An attendee at the Relativity panel discussion then asked Ms McConnell how to go about combating reluctance among staff who are afraid to use proactive analysis.

“As somebody who works in a law firm, as you know, changing the culture is a challenge at times,” the person posing the question asked.

“The data that you guys are talking about sounds amazing and exciting but the reality is that law firms, the data that we deal with is pretty static a lot of the times. It deals with a certain point in time, usually, and sometimes you can reveal stuff that happens before and after a certain point in time in order to prove your case, but how do you recommend getting that buy-in from younger and older attorneys to really use and leverage the technology that is available to litigation support staff and to them nowadays?”

In response, Ms McConnell acknowledged the challenge but said there are ways to deal with the problem effectively.

“One of the things that has happened to probably all of you since early in your careers is you started out by having to explain why new discovery was something people should have to think about, and nobody wanted to have that discussion,” she said.

“We’ve gotten to the point now where most attorneys are aware that they should at least consider that there might be something [in technology] that they should think about.

“And now we’re kind of having a similar discussion around analytics. So even if you’re working with a fairly small data set, if you can show the value in that context, that, in my experiences will tend to make people more open to what else you might be able to do for them.

“So sometimes, we’ll have [analysed] just a month’s worth of data or they’ll give us a very small set of things and sometimes, it’s so small that we’re like, ‘Oh this is going to be very difficult to get much leverage out of”. But we'll take it and do what we can. [Then we can say], ‘All right, here are the cool things we can show you just with this very limited amount of data that you’ve given us” and once they’ve seen that, that tends to make them [more open] and then they’ll give us the rest.

“And then other times too, you can show them what you did in a similar situation with another case, right? So the set of data you’re working with might be static and small, but if you’re working in another matter where you can say, ‘Hey, look we have similar plans in this case, this is the type of data we had, here is what we used, we were able to get rid of 40 per cent of the exposure look how you can see how these patterns work,’ whatever it is, and show them kind of a similar situation. I found that, that’s been very helpful to get buy-in from people."

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