‘Big Data’ And The Application Of Knowledge Management

April 2, 2014

Internet BackgroundWhile 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:

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.