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Intro to Analytics and Automation for In-house Legal Teams

Katie Pecho

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in December of 2020, and a lot in automation and analytics technology has changed since then. We’ve revised and updated this version to reflect the latest and greatest developments and trends. Give it another read to see if you’re all caught up!

Emerging and evolving technologies are changing the ways we communicate with colleagues. As a result, what is discoverable and the ways in which we work are in flux, causing legal operations teams to rethink their approach to leveraging and understanding enterprise data.katie

In addition to new data channels, other pressures are building on in-house teams to accelerate their evolution:

  • More work is moving in-house to reduce costs, so legal operations departments are being asked to do more with the same resources. Departments’ internal/external legal spend distribution shifted from a near 50/50 split last year to a majority internal spend (54 percent) this year, but despite taking on more of the spend internally, 79 percent of legal operations departments reported a strain on department resources, capacity, and budget.
  • The rate at which data is being created is growing exponentially faster every day. At least 463 exabytes of data are generated daily, and a third of general counsel indicate significant concern about how best to manage this eruption of data.
  • With ever more sensitive data popping up across channels, and the tactics of nefarious actors becoming more sophisticated, the stakes for safeguarding information have never been higher. In March 2023 alone, 41.9 million records were compromised by cyberattacks globally— a 951 percent increase since March 2022.
  • Regulation and data privacy concerns continue to grow, often putting an unexpected squeeze or show-stopping subpoena on the table. Demand on legal operations departments to prioritize data privacy has doubled, with demand for regulatory investigations seeing a 50 percent increase.

Though these pressures have become quite taxing, they also present an opportunity for legal operations teams to think more strategically.

On this path of transformation toward in-house data management and ownership, 57 percent of legal professionals report an expected increase in AI usage over the coming years. These tools present opportunities as well as challenges. To help your team in your strategic evolution, we’ve pulled together some key learnings and their alignment to the CLOC Core 12.

Analytics and Automation 101

Analytics and Artificial Intelligence

The term “analytics” means different things to different people, but in the context of the legal and e-discovery worlds, they are tools that automatically digest, organize, and categorize large volumes of documents and help bring meaning to the surface faster. Some of these tools, such as email threading and near-duplicate identification, focus mainly on structured data. Others fall more in the realm of artificial intelligence, helping identify sentiments in text or even coding documents. Running analytics helps streamline the review process, minimizing the time review teams would otherwise spend tracking down scattered email conversations or reading irrelevant documents.

Ultimately, by guiding your organization through the strategic use of data, you can advance your team’s efforts to achieve targeted, measurable outcomes that will have an impact on your business. You can then measure that potential impact by leveraging custom dashboards in RelativityOne, which are designed to help you easily find opportunities for automation and optimization and support your organization in making data-driven decisions.

Automated Workflows

A fair amount of manual and repetitive tasks must be completed before you can even begin review, and these administrative efforts burn time and money. You can unlock the potential for more efficiency by identifying and automating these manual steps in the case setup process.

Automated workflows are repeatable processes that you can run on every case, and every time new data is added to an existing case. Admins can select specific prompts that streamline operations with AI, integrate across systems, and automatically kick off processes in RelativityOne, helping your team find the information they need faster and easier. By eliminating manual work, your team can focus on value-driven activities without the need for additional headcount.

Automation also keeps these activities solely in the hands of legal ops, reducing workload for your in-house counsel so they can focus on practicing law with minimal to no operational demands.

By strategically designing, implementing, and championing department and company-wide initiatives around automation and analytics, you can tackle complex special projects without sacrificing focus or effectiveness elsewhere. Taking advantage of the extensive customization options in RelativityOne allows you to design workspaces tailored to your organization’s initiatives and use data visualizations and dashboards to closely track your progress.

How They Deliver Value to In-house Teams

Using AI and automated workflows in conjunction is where the real magic happens. Together, they can produce efficiencies many times greater than the sum of their parts—and you can truly optimize your legal operations department of tomorrow.

Plus, they’re not limited to only the most mature organizations. Any organization seeking to drive cost and time efficiencies can benefit from implementing automation and analytics capabilities.

Implement simplified workflows.

By reducing your team’s touchpoints in your e-discovery platform to the ones that matter most, you can ensure you are taking a focused approach to your review work and minimizing distractions. With the growing demands on your team, why not spend more time on the activities that move your business forward rather than on time-consuming administrative processes? Automation helps to take some of the drudgery away.

Understand the facts of a case more quickly.

Getting to the truth of a matter sooner gives you the clearest picture of the risks and facts, enabling your team to make the most informed decisions possible. Analyzing data based on concept—rather than just named terms—circumvents the problem of not knowing what you don’t know and can even help you uncover nuances in your data, such as code words and other phrases you may have otherwise missed. With this approach, you can use AI to attain a more straightforward and complete understanding of increasingly complex matters and strategize accordingly.

Reduce data volumes.

You can automatically weed out repetitive, non-relevant content with spam and disclaimer removal, de-duplication, and similar options using analytics. By cutting through enormous amounts of likely irrelevant data in this way, you can home in on what is truly insightful to a matter and dramatically cull data volumes. This reduction will pay huge dividends by quantitative measures—from reduced storage and processing to much shorter review times—and the benefits become increasingly apparent as work moves downstream.

Reduce opportunities for human error.

The fewer instances you invite error-prone human interaction into a process, the less exposure you’ll have to potential mistakes. By greatly reducing the risk of accidents or oversights via automation, we can help reduce the associated downtime and costly rectifications. This is really about mitigating risks and adding more predictability and dependability into your department’s operations.

Be ready for what's on the horizon.

You don’t want to wait until that next big matter comes knocking to try and implement these solutions. Best practice is to take those first steps before trouble hits, so you’re more capable and prepared for that next matter. Now and down the road, by freeing up resources with artificial intelligence and automated workflows together, you’re helping to put time back into your team’s day.

Operational Transformation

Business strategy and risk management activities have seen an increase in demand by 100 percent of general counsel over the last year—putting a significant strain on capacity and budget. Legal operations departments are looking to next-generation e-discovery capabilities in analytics and automation to move from triage to strategic, proactive decision-making.

Because this demand has forced the necessity of extra careful planning and prioritized efficiency across resources, legal operations has become the “engine room of transformation”—evolving from risk mitigators to strategic business partners and expanding their expertise and impact across the growing risk landscape.

Legal is no longer the department of “no,” but rather a strategic team to partner with, and legal operations can act as their connective tissue to the rest of the organization. Thoughtful automation and AI implementation saves legal departments valuable time and money, allowing those resources to be used where they are needed most and opening up bandwidth for critical, larger-scope projects.

The key takeaway is that no matter the size or sophistication of your organization or where you are on your legal operations journey, a quick, simple initiative can bring about as much transformation as a big, complex one. What is most important is figuring out what changes will lead to the biggest ROI for your team—and then following that path forward.

This is by no means an exhaustive look at how in-house departments will need to adapt to the changing landscape. In fact, it really just scratches the surface. Check out Relativity’s revised In-House Guide to e-Discovery to explore how you can successfully bring e-discovery technology in-house.

An In-House Guide to Better e-Discovery

Katie Pecho is a content marketing specialist at Relativity.