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Zev Eigen

Analytics can help lawyers become better at jobs, says data scientist

Thursday, May 18, 2017 @ 2:17 PM | By Tom Venetis


Legal innovation will be driven by the greater use of data analytics in law firms and among lawyers, said Zev Eigen, a data scientist at a legal innovation forum in Toronto.

Zev Eigen

Zev Eigen, Littler Mendelson

Eigen spoke to lawyers and legal students at the Lawyering in the 21st Century forum on May 15 that was organized and hosted by LexisNexis Canada and the Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson University.

Eigen, the global director of data analytics at Littler Mendelson, a U.S.-based labour and employment law firm, said the drive to make better decisions from data is something that is not new to the legal profession. It is something that has been going on since the times of the ancient Romans who used Haruspices to help predict the future.

“These people would read the intestines of animals in order to predict stuff,” said Eigen. “It was a rather low-quality analytic tool and one I would not recommend using for your law firm.”

Instead, today’s law firms need to start working with data analytic experts to design systems that will help them use data to make better legal decisions and to automate legal work, continued Eigen.

While data analytics sounds to many people to be a complex science, the reality behind it is rather simple, he said.

“The math and computer programming used does three things,” said Eigen. “One is predicting stuff, such as what is the likelihood of an employee quitting in the next six months; or what is the likelihood that the outcome in this case will be $5,000; or how much money will this case be settled for? The other is to classify stuff. For example, which employees are more likely to collaborate and work better together? Lastly, it is pattern mining or pattern identification.”

He went on to say the goal is to create systems that will learn over time much in the same way that humans learn. It is not possible for lawyers to keep in one’s mind all the decisions or legal reasoning used across thousands of cases, and to take all that information to help craft a legal strategy. But data analytics combined with deep learning algorithms can create tools that can help.

To show the power of data analytics and deep learning Eigen gave the example of Cepheus, a computer program that plays a perfect game of poker. Designed at the University of Alberta, Cepheus does not know the rules of poker, but it learned the how to play poker by observing the billions of hands of poker of other players.

Data analytics right now is being used to a great degree to automate legal tasks within firms.

“One thing that we are likely going to see from Microsoft is a new thing for Word where you can input all of your writing into it and it will generate versions of your writing,” explained Eigen. “So if you are writing the same kind of legal brief over and over, using the same types of arguments, it will categorize those arguments and then draft your legal brief for you. There are systems like that right now that can do that for sports writing and weather reports. Think about how close law is to that right now. You may like to think that the law is it very different, but think about how much pro forma text there is in most contracts or real estate agreements.”

As data analytics automates more of the daily work of lawyers, a shift will happen in how law firms and lawyers think about their work, added Eigen.

“A lot of people think of law as a profession and not a business,” he continued. “If we think of law more as a business, then software solutions and automated processes and using optimized analytics become things you need to have rather than something that is nice to have. It is a necessity. If we can automate more of the work, we can start to sell that as a software service solution to clients.”

The goal of all this data analytics and complex algorithms is to help lawyers become better at their work. Eigen gave the example of how data analytics and deep learning have changed the chess world. When grand master chess players combine their skill with recommendations from analytics, these grand masters are able to consistently beat both other grand masters and machines designed to play chess at the grand master level.

Eigen said lawyers should do the same. “Use the data you have and data analytics to be better lawyers."

LexisNexis Canada has entered into partnership with Ryerson University's Legal Innovation Zone with the intention of charting and evaluating important emerging trends in legal innovation in Canada and around the globe. The content of this page is not subject to approval by LexisNexis Canada or Ryerson University's Legal Innovation Zone.