AALL Spectrum

AALL Spectrum / November/December 2019 / Volume 24, No. 2

AALL Spectrum / Published by American Association of Law Libraries

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NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019 | AALL SPECTRUM 21 Image © iStockPhoto.com/Andrey Suslov Data Literacy Is No Longer Enough While most of us understand that data literacy is valuable and necessary, as legal work becomes increasingly data- driven, data competency will be the standard by which all legal profession- als—not just information profession- als—are measured. Legal professionals who are data competent have resolved to move beyond basic awareness and have placed data analytics at the cen- ter of their everyday activities. Data competence implies a high level of comfort with newer technologies and real expertise in applying them to real- world problems. Data competent professionals make frequent use of a variety of advanced tools for finding, analyzing, and manip- ulating data in order to be able to make the best possible tactical and strategic decisions in particular use cases. They can immediately match appropriate tools to specific legal or business prob- lems, and they can use those tools con- fidently and efficiently because they use them regularly, every day. Many librarians have already attained data competence and are actively investigating new capabili- ties and new tools as an integral part of their jobs. The legal profession urgently needs their help, both in get- ting lawyers to grasp the importance of data competence and in providing hands-on training so lawyers can inte- grate data-based tools into their exist- ing workflows. Lawyers are trained to under- stand the intricacies of the law, but few have had any training in legal technology. When they are trying to size up opposing counsel, attempting to understand the litigation history of opposing parties, setting motion strategy before a particular judge, or trying to anticipate how long it will take to litigate a particular case, they are accustomed to relying on their own experience, anecdotal informa- tion from colleagues, and, sometimes, nothing more than a hunch. That needs to change. Law Librarians Can Lead the Charge in Data Competency How can law librarians take the lead in promoting data competency among lawyers? First, they can take responsibility for due diligence when it comes to adopting technology tools. Forward- thinking law librarians are already driving adoption of data analytics in both the practice of law and business of law. To be effective in this role, they need to stay up to date on technol- ogy developments and marketplace trends. Data analytics in the legal industry is still in its infancy. Lawyers and legal executives need lots of help distinguishing between a bewildering array of products. Law librarians are perfectly positioned to compare and evaluate these resources. They can use their research expertise to develop sample search queries that will illumi- nate the strengths and weaknesses of specific solutions. They can also help the profession develop more objective criteria for evaluating factors such as ease of use. A recent presentation at the Amer- ican Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting described an example of the kind of leadership that law librarians can provide to a profession that is seriously in need of guidance. In the example discussed, a group of experienced information professionals from a variety of back- grounds and job roles collaborated on a project to provide law librarian colleagues with a deeper understand- ing of litigation analytics. They inves- tigated the ways in which products are not comparable, established test parameters and developed sample questions, engaged in hands-on testing, published their results (with appro- priate caveats), and provided honest feedback for vendors serious about improving their offerings. These are activities that very few lawyers have the time or interest in pursuing. In any effort to evaluate legal ana- lytics tools, it will be crucial to address the challenges presented by one of the primary sources of data for legal ana- lytics solutions: Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER, which is a massive dataset of federal litiga- tion data that is growing by around two million cases per year. However, PACER has serious data gaps, its classification of cases and filtering rely heavily on its Nature of Suit (NOS) codes, and its raw data requires

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