By Nestor Holynskyj

The world of IT is blessed (cursed?) with innovation and every year yields another hot technology that generates buzz for IT departments, technology media, tech geeks, and, ultimately, business users.  So, with discussions about “the cloud” and BYOD (bring your own device) still fresh in everyone’s mind, “big data” and the technology to mine it have emerged as the topics de jure.  And apparently none too soon.  According to Eric Schmidt: “Every two days now we create asmuch information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003”.  And that was a quote from 2010.  And many industries are finding themselves with petabytes of data that they would like to turn into useful information that can improve many aspects of their business.  Law firms are not immune to this phenomenon but as much as the lawyers may feel often overwhelmed by the amount of information at their disposal, in truth, the numbers created by corporate entities dwarfs the volume of data generated even by the largest firms.  Consequently, the highly sophisticated and expensive tools needed to manage and manipulate the structured big data stores of these behemoths aren’t needed for the average law firm.  However, the processes and objectives of the big data leaders are of immeasurable value and here is where the attention of the law firm CIO should be focused.

Typically the largest concentration of data in a law firm based on sheer storage requirements tends to be in its litigation support area.  But the information captured there is case related and an entire generation of mining tools specific to this purpose has emerged through the e-discovery industry.  The “big data-like” challenges for law firms is to mine the multiple silos of apparently unrelated data scattered throughout the organization that when viewed with appropriate prisms can yield new strategies in pursuing new clients, optimizing operations, creating new lines of business, identifying new recruits, improving marketing campaigns, etc.  At the same time, there are numerous third-party services who indeed have “big data” sized information banks that can provide invaluable information to complement the internal analyze. And while law firms are looking at these data sources to identify new business opportunities, they should be very aware that their clients are studying these same data streams for information on to how select and/or manage their outside counsel!

So while “big data” may seem like a great opportunity to dabble in something new and exciting, the truly business-minded CIO will always remember that the more prudent sequence of events is: people, process, and then — technology!




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