An emerging generation of big data management tools help attorneys gain control over virtually all types of data, allowing them to find information relevant to their case and determine exactly which data should be processed and reviewed.
"In particular, open source analytics platforms have proven extremely fast at processing data," Gillis says. Open source technologies such as Apache Hadoop are highly efficient because they help make sense of information chaos. "They pull massive amounts of structured and unstructured data into a refinery system and break it down quickly so attorneys have quick and easy access to relevant information," he says.
Analytics tools specifically designed for legal applications are also available to help law offices efficiently track, manage, and review big data, says Sheila Mackay, senior director of e-discovery consulting at Xerox Litigation Services, based in Albany, N.Y. She notes that technology-assisted review products, for instance, use machine-learning techniques to automate the prioritization of documents for review based on how likely they are to be responsive to a particular matter.
"TAR may be appropriate for large volumes of data subject to discovery that would otherwise be cost- and time-prohibitive to review manually based on deadlines," Mackay says. Such approaches enable review managers to be more effective in allocating workflow to associate and contract review resources, achieve more consistency and optimize senior attorneys' time.
Analytics software can also help law offices optimize a variety of time-consuming business and management tasks, such as caseload distribution, revenue projection, fee forecasting and client data organization.
Dean Gonsowski is senior e-discovery counsel at Mountain View, Calif.-based analytics software publisher Symantec. He notes that when representing a client in a patent infringement suit, a law office could use analytics to develop a reasonable fee estimate by processing and analyzing data gleaned from its involvement in previous, related suits.
"In like manner, such an estimate could help the law firm project its revenue streams on that suit and assist with overall budget forecasts," he adds.
Getting Started. A law office considering a move into big data analytics should begin by taking a close look at the data it's currently storing and how that information is being used.
"A value-focused analysis will help determine what information should ultimately be kept and for how long," Gonsowski says.
Effective big data management and use begins with four basic steps, says Gillis.