Exponential Growth – The Data Explosion and Resulting Challenges and Opportunities for Law Firms, Part 1

By Joseph Raczynski

We are currently living in the hockey stick portion of explosive data growth. That is, 90% of data humans amassed has been collected during the past two years. According to IBM Watson, this is gathering speed exponentially such that 2.5 billion gigabytes of new data is generated every day and the majority of this is unstructured. Simply stated, the numbers are massive and the data is not organized—and this impacts all businesses, but increasingly is a challenge to law firms.

True expertise is fading without computer learning tools

Recently I had the opportunity to watch Robin Grosset, Distinguished Engineer and Lead Architect at IBM Watson Analytics steer an entertaining and provocative discuss around data analytics. His focus was on how big data can impact expertise and how cognitive analysis or computer learning can meet this massive data challenge and build abundant opportunity.

True human expertise is at a crossroads. No one person can possibly absorb the vast quantity of data that is being produced in various disciplines. Traditionally in the eDiscovery space, firms hired first-years out of law school to review and classify thousands of documents for a case. Now, in many instances, data has ballooned well beyond what a team of attorneys can handle. Expertise is lost among the data. Audio, video, pictures, database information and social media are increasingly in profusion around cases to be analyzed. The ability to be an expert with a complete understanding of a case is nearly impossible now without the proper tools.

The solution to this dilemma of data and expertise is to wrap instruments that interpret and understand this data around the information. With cognitive computing it begins by dealing with the volume, variety and velocity of the data. Once that is understood, the real key is adding a human intuitive interface on top of that massive data-crunching, cloud-processing power. This aspect is the edge of where this field is headed currently. It then allows an expert to unearth the data through analytics and their own analysis. Firms can then sort through the mountain of information to understand and interpret trends and more importantly find white space. Now the expert can reclaim their seat, and from this challenge start to seek out opportunities for their firm.

In the next part of this series I will focus on how law firms can turn the big data challenge into opportunity.