Ask a Director: Implementing Data Analytics

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 26, Number 2 (November/December 2021), pgs 28-29.

By Patricia Barbone, Director of Library Services, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP and John Digilio, Firmwide Director of Library Services, Sidley Austin LLP

Last week, we posted an article from AALL Spectrum on How Data Analytics Can Change the Way Law Firms Do Business, as well as an article highlighting how some law librarians have made use of internal and external data repositories to launch their own data projects, DIY Analytics:  Beyond Excel.   This week’s posts from AALL Spectrum complement those articles.  One illustrates how law library directors and their teams are currently implementing analytics solutions.  The others encourage law librarians to further embrace their data scientist skills and to look into the “black box” of technology, so they can understand and present data and analytics in ways that will best benefit their firms and organizations. 


For the past three to four years, as analytics research tools have proliferated, we have familiarized our lawyers and legal staff with the concept of legal analytics by introducing them to the data analytics features in our existing legal research products. We currently subscribe to many products for litigation and transactional research that contain analytics tools. Some of the most popular products include Bloomberg Law Litigation Analytics, Lexis Context, Lex Machina, and Westlaw Litigation Analytics. For transactional lawyers, we frequently instruct them to use Bloomberg Deal Analytics, Lexis’s Intelligize, and LexisNexis Market Standards.

Analytics training for lawyers has been gradually taking place over the past few years as these tools have increasingly become an integral part of the research platform. Originally, when a database had a data analytics component, it was highlighted in training if it illustrated a typical legal problem that our lawyers were trying to solve but was cumbersome to tackle using traditional research techniques. In our current general orientation, we let lawyers know that analytics research tools may help them get to a better understanding of the legal issue, a better assessment of the strategy, or a better way to retrieve relevant precedents. ­The results will be presented in a tabular or graphical format that provides a different perspective than a list of case citations. We highlight a couple of tools when they begin, but we don’t overstress them because we find a relevant use case is needed for lawyers to fully appreciate the power of analytics. ­Therefore, we showcase the data analytics tools all year round, not just as part of the onboarding process.

Training and education can take the form of vendor-sponsored events, one-on-one sessions, library newsletter tips, and practice group meetings. We always try to find specific research tasks to illustrate the capabilities of an analytics tool, so it has a very practical approach. One thing that has changed, however, is we now tell our associates to look for an analytics tool that addresses their topic, as opposed to in previous years when we only mentioned a specific tool. Legal data analytics tools are rapidly becoming the most effective and time-saving way to research a legal concept or document, and we encourage our associates to both ask a librarian if they can’t find something relevant and to let the library know if they think an existing data analytics tool is missing a key data point.

I don’t think you need to have a very technology-forward organization to introduce analytics concepts to lawyers because so many tools exist within current legal research subscriptions. An interesting trend is that firms are beginning to tie their internal data with external data in order perform bespoke analysis. A common example is tying external docket data to internal firm systems to spot client filings and identify business development opportunities. Most firms are still in the data collection phase, and it is helpful to stay on top of the data projects currently underway in the departments at your ‑rm. I recommend staying connected with your conflicts, information technology, and marketing departments to keep abreast of their data projects and to let them know the firm’s vendors may be able to enhance their analytics with additional content. ­There is an opportunity for legal information professionals, both as experts on external data analytics research tools and as individuals who understand how incorporating data from external vendors may enhance internal firm analytics. Giving lawyers a foundation in data analytics is a key step in the legal profession’s ability to use and build analytics tools to find answers, make decisions, glean insights, and identify trends, all of which will benefit both law firms and clients.


Much like so many of the tools involved in analytics training, here at Sidley, we are in the middle of an exciting work in progress. The more we come to understand the power and place of the resources that provide meaningful analytics, the better we can help our attorneys understand how to best incorporate them in ways that both fit their workflows and provide for strategic advantage. Legal analytics and the way we introduce them to our practitioners are areas that are rapidly evolving together.

­The orientations of old, in which we were given as much time as we wanted to address new attorney hires, either individually or in small groups, are long gone. Whether they come with a new first-year class or come to us via lateral moves from other firms, our attorneys today are expected to hit the ground running. Today’s orientations are often much shorter and more focused on introducing the practitioner to what the firm has to offer. Th­e detailed tips and tricks come later through a series of one-on-one and time-of-need interactions with our librarians. ­is quick whetting of the appetite includes a preview of the firm’s analytics offerings.

With such limited time to make a first impression—an impression that we hope will keep them coming back for more—we have found there is power and efficiency in letting the attorneys know that Sidley is committed to providing the most effective tools to meet their needs. We highlight the growing importance of analytics while tantalizing them with the virtues of tools such as Lex Machina, Ravel Law (now part of LexisNexis), Westlaw Edge, and more. But we are also honest, reminding the attorneys that analytics fill a niche or specific set of uses. Like any other specialized resource, they are seldom the be-all and end-all of the research process or need.

But this is also where we get to take part in the learning process. As we engage more with our attorneys and gauge their use cases for analytics, we increase our own understanding of when and where analytics tools are most powerfully and strategically employed. Th­is is our own learning curve, and it is helping us plan for even more meaningful and effective training offerings in the future. We have begun developing short, targeted training videos to assist our practitioners in getting the direction they need when and where they need it.

Of course, we are still incorporating vendor training and more robust one-on-one sessions with our librarians. But if we have learned nothing else from the remote working response to the pandemic, it is that agility and focus in serving our attorneys is more important than ever. Adding legal analytics to our training repertoire is becoming a big part of how we retool and future-proof our offerings.

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