April 2, 2014
While potentially enormously useful, Big Data can easily overwhelm even the most well-intentioned law firm and become a source of frustration or a drag on productivity. In order to avoid being inundated, law firms need to develop an infrastructure of retention, storage and retrieval strategies.
That was one message from “Big Data and the Application of Knowledge Management,” a presentation that Kim Stein, Thomson Reuters’ National Manager for Enterprise Content Management Solutions, gave as part of an International Legal Technology Association webinar last week.
In short, Big Data – very broadly defined as a collection of data sets that is so large it is difficult to manage using existing tools and processing techniques – has many applications that could be very useful for lawyers and law firms. The problem is, there is so much information. Most companies (law firms included) are working for Big Data, not the other way around:
- According to one estimate from Gartner Research, legal professionals may spend as much as 50 percent of their time searching for information. It takes an average of 18 minutes to find each document, according to that same estimate.
- One 2011 study found that employees of an average company waste about 30 minutes per day, or 16 days per year, looking for documents.
- Simply saving everything is not the answer – between 50 and 70 percent of stored data is “digital landfill,” according to HP. Keeping every single piece of information is wasteful and inefficient. It does not help professionals find what they need when they need it because it creates so much to sift through, which complicates the task.
Why does this matter? Time is money, of course; OMC Partners found that when law firms actually used strategies to manage the data attorneys used to do work, they could reduce the cost of matters by around 10 percent. That is something in which cost-conscious clients are keenly interested.
The antidote to the problem of ever-swelling volumes of information, and the key to providing clients with efficiency-based cost savings, may be Knowledge Management. When implemented properly and effectively, Knowledge Management (defined as the processing of capturing, distributing and effectively using knowledge) can cut down on the time wasted hunting for or recreating information. It also extends the mileage of each representation of effort because it saves firm attorneys the work of generating something entirely new when they could alter or repurpose an existing item.
At present, different law firms have taken different approaches to Knowledge Management. Since Big Data is not going to go away, it will be interesting to see which strategies prove themselves and which fail to rein in all of Big Data’s information. When firms embrace KM initiatives such as internal precedent collections, expert databases, deal databases, and employ and use workflow tools they are positioning themselves for increased productivity and distinguishing themselves from their competitors.