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Arming Legal Ops with Actionable Intelligence

L egal operations means many things to many companies, ranging from big picture responsibilities surrounding strategic planning and financial management to more practical, on the ground functions, such as records management and vendor relationships. Overall, legal ops is a multi-disciplinary function aiming to optimize the delivery of legal services to organizations and run legal departments smoothly.

Access to structured, real-time data is key to remaining relevant and influential for legal ops in an age of continued digital expansion, new legal tech applications, and legal analytics powered by Big Data and artificial intelligence. Legal data APIs (application programming interfaces) can arm forward-thinking legal ops teams with structured data that can be directly input into matter management and budgeting applications, saving considerable data entry hours and powering much sought after analytics.

If you search, “data is the fuel of the digital economy,” on the internet, countless results appear from reputable, high-profile companies, NGOs, and think tanks discussing how data is the electricity of the digital age. What is often left out the conversation is the importance of clean, trustworthy data that is tagged, bagged, and made readily available for reporting.

In the legal ops world, and especially in large corporations with Big Law-sized legal departments, there is nothing more frightening, and thus potentially damaging, to your team’s reputation than having bad data, and doubting whether your reports are accurate or reliable. Rather than investing significant time in developing normalization technology via machine learning to ensure the data you are using is accurate and reliable, legal ops teams can instead directly download and interact with outside data sources securely behind their firewalls, using legal data APIs.

Building business intelligence into ongoing processes

For those interested in drinking from the firehose, good legal data APIs present the option of already filtered and purified data, and remove the constant need to individually grab court data on a case-by-case basis from individual online court systems. This also removes the need for legal ops teams to rely on fellow in-house lawyers and paralegals to provide knowledge when your company is involved in litigation.

Moreover, APIs equip legal ops with the data needed to direct the conversation of which law firm, and, more specifically, which outside lawyer is best positioned and priced to handle a new matter as soon as a complaint is filed.

To expand this further, there are two important interrelated use cases that can both free legal ops teams from low-level data entry tasks and provide actionable insights: automating matter opening and budget initiation.

By leveraging legal data APIs in the litigation context, the moment a new complaint is filed against your company, a notification can be sent to your matter management system, triggering the opening of a new matter. The new matter could then be auto-populated with several data points, such as the names of the parties, opposing counsel, the judge, jurisdiction, case number, and case type, as well as any available documents. Once the matter is opened internally, an alert could also be sent to a legal ops analyst to review and assign the matter to in-house counsel.

After opening the matter, a legal ops analyst can instantly verify the complaint’s relevance and priority, confirm who sued their company, identify the type of matter involved, and use the name of opposing counsel to run a series of legal analytics reports from other data obtained through their APIs. Within minutes, an analyst could review the plaintiff’s litigation history, perform conflicts checks on opposing counsel, and locate top defense firms for the particular case type to compare against their panel firms.

Having clean, reliable data on the newly filed complaint also assists legal ops analysts in kickstarting the budgeting process. Looking at the complaint’s jurisdiction and case type, analysts can quickly compare internal legal spend data of previous similar cases, while also setting an estimated matter duration, informed by analytics reports considering important factors, such as the presiding judge.

With historical spend data layered on top of a potential timeline, analysts can then set up a realistic reserve for the matter and also use this data to negotiate beneficial alternative fee arrangements with their panel firms.

To finish the initial matter-opening process, the new case could then be assigned to an in-house lawyer, who now has access to helpful metrics, initial case filings, recommendations about the best panel firms, and a budget with reserves.

Automating matter intake with APIs is not only a game changer for in-house litigation teams, but it is also a solid win for legal ops. It wipes away the need to do boring and rote data entry work on every case that comes in the door, while freeing up the creative engine of legal ops teams to provide viable legal solutions.

Transitioning and positioning for future success

Transitioning beyond manual data entry to obtain automated, clean data flows capable of producing actionable legal analytics is a critical step for legal ops teams and their legal departments as a whole. While some legal ops teams may not be ready to integrate automated data entry from APIs, positioning for a future time, when you are technologically able to do so, is an equally important step to take.

Coming to the conversation armed with irrefutable truths based on reliable data can help change the nature of the relationship between legal ops and in-house lawyers. It can create an advisory relationship built on trust and allow in-house lawyers to go back to the lawyerly work they love. With solid data, legal ops can move from being reactive reporting machines to becoming proactive partners for their legal departments and business teams.

About the Author

Jeff Cox is the director of content and data acquisition for UniCourt, a SaaS offering using machine learning to disrupt the way court records are organized, accessed, and used. He is a Florida-based attorney, who loves all things legal tech and volunteering with local legal aid programs in Tampa, FL.

The information in any resource collected in this virtual library should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on specific facts and should not be considered representative of the views of its authors, its sponsors, and/or ACC. These resources are not intended as a definitive statement on the subject addressed. Rather, they are intended to serve as a tool providing practical advice and references for the busy in-house practitioner and other readers.