Magazine article Information Today

Three Trends That Will Define the Next Horizon in Legal Research

Magazine article Information Today

Three Trends That Will Define the Next Horizon in Legal Research

Article excerpt

Humans create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day, and the cost of storing and maintaining each byte of data is declining. A McKinsey & Co. report estimated that all the digital songs in the world could be stored on a drive that costs around $600. The result of more creation and lower storage costs has been a doubling of the world's digitized data over the last 2 years. That's a lot of new data.

In fact, the growth of stored data is outpacing the ability of most people to manage it. Information professionals in all industries wrestle with this overflow. Having more data is not always a positive thing. Work can suffer as it becomes more difficult to sort through huge volumes of information fast enough to find what's needed. It's not surprising that knowledge managers want a small number of places to quickly find, easily understand, analyze, and act upon trusted information. And they want this while avoiding risk and reducing costs.

Against this backdrop, emerging technologies are helping professionals manage this growth and find what they are looking for in the vast sea of data. Powerful tools, such as natural language processing and machine learning, are helping professionals bridge the gap between information overload and the ability to harvest the power of Big Data. These tools make it easier to work with large volumes of information. While still in their infancy, the tools can, to an extent, intuit what users are trying to find and then search volumes of data, scan for major trends, compare results, investigate details, and present potential answers, in context, allowing users to understand the logic of an answer and determine if it is appropriate for their work. At the same time, advancements in visualization tools and techniques are making it easier to quickly understand and derive conclusions from Big Data sets.


While these changes have been transpiring, more than 50 million Millennials have entered the workforce at the rate of about 4 million per year. Millennials now make up nearly one-third of the U.S. workforce, and they are our most educated generation. Studies have shown that their brains are wired differently from those of employees who came into the workforce before the year 2000. They are more comfortable with disruptive technologies than their predecessors. They possess a new level of digital discernment; they think differently and possess skills and a sense of familiarity that allow them to confidently apply new technologies. They have the skills to capture the power of Big Data and effectively use and develop Big Data tools.

These three trends--more data, better Big Data tools, and skilled Millennials--are emerging across many industries, including the legal profession. This means that while fundamentals of the practice of law--such as researching case law, statutes, and secondary materials; formulating case strategies; crafting compelling arguments; and drafting documents to support transactions--will remain, Big Data, the tools to harvest it, and the emerging force of Millennials will not only supplement the fundamentals, but create a new class of research that will give those crafty enough to embrace it an edge in securing clients, controlling costs, and achieving better outcomes. …

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