Peer to Peer Magazine

March 2013

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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Page 71 of 111

previous documents and the content they've created can give law firms a competitive advantage. Furthermore, when dealing with e-discovery requests, the ability to analyze all relevant data effectively is essential. In these cases, law firms and their clients are often required to produce the right information in extremely short time frames — a difficult and demanding task considering the increasing volume and complexity of the data held by most organizations today. MASTER YOUR UNSTRUCTURED DATA The key to achieving this and unlocking the potential value held by your data is not an easy feat. In law firms, which are typically conservative in their approaches to IT, the challenge is considerable. Many firms have legacy document management solutions into which they diligently place information, but this isn't typically done in any uniform way, and the data often haven't been categorized properly, making it incredibly difficult for firms to extract value from the information held in these systems. The same is true of email archives, where email messages essentially go to die and never be found again. With information not properly categorized in the first place and kept in various different silos — in addition to a firm's DMS and archives, there's often also SharePoint and several file servers, not to mention external resources — it's incredibly difficult for law firms to take a view of all their data and extract any value. In many critical cases, employees need quick access to the right information to make decisions or perform tasks. However, finding this specific information is, in itself, the task. Storing vast amounts of unmanaged data and information no longer just incurs storage costs, it also makes it much more difficult to identify and use business-critical information. To address this, law firms have traditionally invested in teams of paralegals to trawl their data reserves when needed. This is extremely time-consuming and expensive, and is also prone to error. Technologies exist today that can perform this task much more quickly, costeffectively and accurately. Such processes can unlock the value of big data without burdening employees, making it largely human-error free. No organization should have to rely on the personal knowledge of an individual as to where a certain document, evidential or otherwise, might be located. FIVE THINGS TO CONSIDER IN A BIG DATA WORLD 1. Law firms can immediately take advantage of big data internally by tying together their document management systems, billing systems and email to identify experts on particular topics, using expertise location systems. 2. Remember that expertise may lie beyond the walls of your firm. Leverage data from outside as well. 3. Businesses can learn a lot from unstructured and often messy data. For example, fraud analytics depend on the detection of outliers, which are often found in data not within the carefully managed data warehouse (i.e., the stuff in email messages, instant messages, etc.). 4. Unmanaged data can expose business to legal and compliance risks, which can end up costing them vast sums to analyze information purely on a reactive basis. Managing and analyzing proactively is a better and more cost-effective approach. 5. The economics make sense. The cost of computing power, storage and bandwidth has declined to a point where it is affordable. Big data projects existed in the past, but could only be undertaken by entities such as national governments due to the cost. Now businesses can afford to scale up to big data. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF BIG DATA Law firms, like all businesses, must know where information resides within their systems, be it structured or unstructured. By using software to identity words, phrases and concepts in context and across multiple repositories, firms can embrace and take advantage of the value of big data. A well-managed system with a single index would enable them to capture information at the point of creation and apply retention processes, protect content on litigation holds and efficiently dispose of irrelevant content on a regularly scheduled basis. An automated system could save time, reduce costs and drive efficiencies through search capabilities that turn data from an organizational headache into a true operational asset. Peer to Peer 73

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