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Collecting, mining and analyzing data in the best way possible may seem like the holy grail of analytics, but the ability to make decisions on data is only as good as the ease with which it can be read. That is where good data visualization techniques come in. With the right visual representations of data through charts and graphs, today’s best legal analytics tools can help the analyst quickly identify issues with the data, assess outliers, and recognize potential patterns.

“You can spend all the time in the world mining data, developing and administering a database that collects all of your information and have the best model, but if you present it to your users in a way that makes it impossible to consume and understand, it will quickly become an unused asset,” says Scott Springer, senior director at HBR Consulting. Most simply, visualization makes it easier to “discover” information, meaning it helps users identify trends in historical data, query data to quickly answer questions that used to require database experts and pinpoint outliers that exist in data sets.

There is a reason why Apple is one of the most successful companies in the world, he points out — it thinks first and foremost about how consumers will interact with its products. “In the age of mobility and web-based applications, law firm users are not going to accept antiquated data visualization techniques or products that are not easy to use,” he says.

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