Updated: May 24
I sometimes ask people how they define innovation. The answers I get— whether I’m asking a CEO, a judge, or a cab driver—are generally along the lines of “making something new.” While that is certainly true, it is not precise. The practice of innovation need not be so imprecise. At Epiq, we’re practicing innovation in ways we envision will change how legal services are defined, delivered and valued. To do that, we are leveraging data to fuel our innovation engine. In other words, our innovation practice is data-driven. Data analysis provides the context we need to innovate productively. Absent data, innovation is subject to guesswork.
Innovation in the legal industry
We will of course continue to deliver innovative products. In recent years, innovation in the legal industry has certainly resulted in new products and services. The introduction of machine learning in support of eDiscovery, in particular, has drastically altered the practice of discovery by providing ways to conduct searches and review electronically stored information (ESI) more effectively at lower costs. And data visualisation tools make it possible for non-data-experts to recognise patterns of human behaviour that are evidenced by the ESI they generate or interact with. Product innovation has generated extraordinary value in our industry, and will continue to do so. But innovation can go beyond the development of products. To be disruptively innovative across our businesses, we need to look beyond the new features and functions that will be implemented in the next releases of our software products and the services they enable. We’re exploring how our clients can use our data analysis to improve their legal costs and outcomes. To succeed, we’ll need context. Data analysis across matters, across services, across providers and across geographies can provide the context we and our clients need to achieve the best outcomes at the most compelling value. Better data will lead to better results for everyone.
Data science establishes the context we need to deliver disruptive innovation in the legal services market
Our daily lives are increasingly data-driven. Consumers generate all sorts of data on their spending patterns, entertainment providers use data to predict what their customers will watch, and ride-share providers analyze their drivers’ performance through data derived from their itineraries. When we talk about the contribution of big data to innovation and value creation, it is illuminating to consider how the market values businesses these days. Recent review of NYSE data illustrates the value of big data analytics. The top five companies in terms of market capitalization (Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Facebook, and Amazon) have a combined market cap of $3.3 trillion. The next five (Johnson & Johnson, ExxonMobil, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America) have a combined market cap of $1.8 trillion. While all ten of these extraordinary companies create value from big data in some way, it is clear that the pure-play digital platforms are driving the greatest value creation.
At Epiq, the scope of services we deliver includes class action and mass tort solutions, court reporting solutions, eDiscovery, restructuring and bankruptcy solutions, regulatory and compliance solutions, and business process solutions. Each of these rely on and generate data. We are designing solutions to enable our clients to benefit from that data.
Big data in eDiscovery and beyond
For example, when we search, sort and analyse enormous quantities of data in an eDiscovery project, our goal is to determine relevancy. We measure recall and precision in the context of each matter. However, applying big data analytics, we could evaluate all of the data, not just the relevant data, in other contexts. As we confirm which patterns of data are correlated with legal risks, we will be able to apply those patterns to all collected ESI. If risk assessments help identify patterns of behaviour that might lead to litigation, and those behaviours are addressed effectively, we may be able to help our clients avoid litigation in the first place. Talk about a value proposition – that would bring the discovery cost down to zero.
We’re going to be creating solutions that allow clients to make better decisions, and mitigate risk, based on data. Opportunities are everywhere. Whether we use data to baseline costs in like matters by area of practice and geography, in risk assessment, or in compliance with data regulations such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, we will be using data to create the context we need to deliver effective innovation for our clients.
Cliff Dutton is Epiq's chief innovation officer. He drives business model innovation and leads the company’s product strategy, both for proprietary software and third-party software integrations. He is named inventor in four U.S. patents in digital image processing, game design and data processing. Dutton graduated with honors from Brown University and earned his degree in cognitive science.