Data Trends in the Legal Industry: Moving from Unstructured to Structured Data – Jeff Cox writes in Legaltech News

on Topics: Future Law | Legal Tech

Data Trends in the Legal Industry: Moving from Unstructured to Structured Data – Jeff Cox writes in Legaltech News

As the legal industry catches up to the digital era we find ourselves in, the move from unstructured to structured data presents a transformational growth opportunity for law firms and legal departments. However, to fully take hold of the opportunities afforded by making the move from unstructured to structured data, the legal industry will have to undergo sustained cultural shifts and structural changes connected to the way we think about, collect, and use data.

We’re thrilled to share UniCourt’s latest article in Legaltech News written by our Director of Content, Jeff Cox: “Data Trends in the Legal Industry: Moving from Unstructured to Structured Data.” Jeff’s article is the second in a three-part series on data trends impacting the legal industry. 

In his first article, “Data Trends in the Legal Industry: Embracing Data Classification Standards,” Jeff covered the importance of industry standards for data classifications, reasons why the legal industry must continue developing its own industry standards, and the need for the legal industry to build an active community of law firms, legal departments, legal tech companies, and legal support providers committed to improving those standards over time.

For his second article, Jeff turned to focus on the need for the legal industry to move from unstructured to structured data and shared (1) some of the basics on what unstructured data is compared to structured data, (2) some of the general trends in structured data like the increasing use of data lakes and data visualization tools, and he closed out the article by reviewing (3) structured data in the legal industry and trends related to the expanding use of legal technology tools and the growing maturity of knowledge management (KM) roles.

Here below is an excerpt from our article in Legaltech News:

Data is everywhere. From the Zoom calls you’re on, to the emails you send, the documents you work on, and the legal system you interact with, unstructured data is inherent in everything law firms and legal departments do. To make the most of this growing gold mine of data, law firms and legal departments must invest in better structuring of their data. 

In the first article of this three part series, we reviewed trends in data classification and the importance of embracing data standards in the legal industry to ensure seamless communication between systems, increased efficiencies, and better decision-making. We’ll now turn to trends in data structuring and touch on what unstructured data is and how the legal industry is working to move from unstructured to structured data.

Unstructured vs. Structured Data

Unstructured data populates the world around us. Everything we do or say is replete with data points that can be analyzed and used, from voice messages and emails, to PDFs and spreadsheets. Any type of raw, uncategorized data is considered unstructured, meaning that a computer cannot uniformly receive, analyze, and find patterns in the data without additional work. 

Conversely, structured data is “data that uses a predefined and expected format.” Once bucketed into predefined categories, data can be entered into computer systems, where large amounts of data can be analyzed to find key insights and stored for future use.

So why do we need structured data? The answer is multi-faceted. Unstructured data makes up typically 80% of an organization’s data, but computer systems aren’t designed to handle it, causing misleading results that could lead to poor business decisions and unrelenting reporting errors. 

The most important reason to use and develop structured data is efficiency. First and foremost, organizations can save significant resources by eliminating the need for large teams solely dedicated to manually entering and analyzing unstructured data. 

Second, leveraging large-batch data analytics from structured data allows organizations to pivot, grow, or scale back their business quickly and easily through trends analysis, profitability monitoring, and risk reporting. Finally, structured data is easy to store and sift through, even in massive quantities, providing faster recall, better search visibility, and enhanced knowledge management.

Trends in Structured Data

Structured data is the basis for a variety of trends in the data analytics space. Data lakes, which are large repositories of data for use in machine learning, reporting, and analytics, rely on structured data to provide manageable information on billions of potential data points across an organization. 

Data lakes are being used by forward-thinking organizations to store large amounts of data from multiple sources that would otherwise prove prohibitively expensive to maintain, allowing mass amounts of information to be easily available for streaming into various applications, building custom tailored analytics, and on-demand reporting. However, without structured data, data lakes become clunky and difficult to use, leading to “data swamps” or mismanaged, no longer useful pools of data.

Along with the growing use of data lakes to help organizations better manage and draw insights from disparate data sources, another growing trend in structured data is the use of data visualization tools. 

To make sense of data without having to resort to massive excel spreadsheets and endless pivot tables, structured data provides the opportunity to seamlessly pipe data into a range of visualization tools. And not just static visualization tools that go stale, but dynamic dashboards that can be leveraged to build self-service reporting options to empower business teams and prevent data science teams from having to generate yet another report that could have been automated. 

You can read the full article here on Legaltech News.

This article was also published in the May issue of Cybersecurity Law & Strategy.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for legal tech updates!