Data-Driven Legal Guidance with Ed Walters

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In this episode we talk about the weather. But only for a minute. Mostly we’re going to talk about the use of big data in the practice of law.

There is a reason IBM acquired the digital assets of The Weather Channel, and it’s not because they are climate nerds. They bought it to put weather data to work to “operationalize [the] understanding of the impact of weather on business outcomes.” Think about the economic impact of snowstorms, hurricanes, and even less dramatic weather conditions, or the impact on the durability of manufacturing or building materials as temperatures rise or fall outside the norm.  

While we all crave meteorological precision, we also crave precision when making legal and business decisions. 

Clients ask questions like these all the time: What is our case worth? What size award will we get? Where should I file? Will the judge grant summary judgment? Should I even bring this suit?  Lawyers will draw on experience to offer their best advice, providing ranges followed by caveats and usually preceded by the most lawyerly of lawyer answers: “It depends.”  As my guest points out, lawyers also get business-related questions. Business-related answers may begin with “it depends,” but must end with a number. When a CEO asks how much revenue your project will generate, “more” is not the answer they’re looking for. I know. I’ve tried. 

Lawyers who seek greater precision in their predictions can take comfort in the increasing sophistication of analytical tools that can evaluate massive troves of data and account for myriad variables. Not only are we seeing advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and language processing, but there is greater access to important litigation-related data – BIG DATA – than ever before. Using new technologies to comb through millions of records – combined with an attorney’s insights – cannot only sharpen their predictive capabilities, but it can help them build, defend, and resolve cases. 

For insights on the past, present and future of legal guidance and analysis, listen to my interview with Ed Walters, co-founder and CEO of our partners on this podcast, Fastcase, the legal research and software company whose divisions include Fastcase Full Court Press (publishing), Law Street Media (legal news), Docket Alarm (docket tools), and NextChapter (software).  An entrepreneur, writer and professor, Ed brings his experience advising global Fortune 500 tech and pharma companies and sports leagues, serving in the White House on media affairs and speechwriting, and contributing to several major newspapers and journals. Ed is an adjunct law professor at Georgetown and Cornell universities. He is also a self-described “weather nerd,” which explains my tortured introduction.  

This podcast is the audio companion to the Journal on Emerging Issues in Litigation. The Journal is a collaborative project between HB Litigation Conferences and the Fastcase legal research family, which includes Full Court Press, Law Street Media, and Docket Alarm. The podcast itself is a joint effort between HB and our friends at Law Street Media. If you have comments or wish to participate in one our projects please drop me a note at