Legal Analytics Lab
The Legal Analytics Lab is developing a world-class research program in the use of text mining and machine learning to detect patterns, predict outcomes, and derive insights related to compliance, regulatory, litigation, and transactional risk.
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“Legal analytics” refers to the statistical and computational modeling, analysis, and visualization of various kinds of legal data to accomplish both descriptive and predictive goals. Advances in data science now enable the extraction of information from large numbers of legal documents quickly and efficiently, turning messy text into structured data. These same tools can be used to build predictive models to forecast the filing and outcome of litigation or regulatory action, predict judges’ decisions given the facts of a case, identify terms likely to lead to contract disputes, and predict patent challenges. According to the New York Times, Forbes, and other outlets, this application of data science to the study and practice of law is “disruptive,” “innovative,” and has “dizzying ... implications.” It is also big business. A recent study values the legal analytics market at 451 million USD in 2017 and projects that it will grow to 1.85 billion USD over the next five years.
Given the potential for innovation in the application of data analytics to legal questions and problems, the Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business and College of Law established the Legal Analytics Lab in September 2017. The lab is housed within the Institute for Insight, Robinson’s data analytics unit, and brings together the institute’s existing methodological expertise in the use and analysis of unstructured data with legal scholars’ domain expertise.
The Legal Analytics Lab has three focus areas: research, engagement with outside partners, and teaching. First, the lab enables research collaborations between the business school’s analytics faculty and the law faculty. Such projects include a study of the text of contract terms that govern impact investment funds that operate with a social benefit mission, an analysis of patterns in arbitration awards in disputes between investors and broker-dealers, and an examination of the ways that judges distinguish between employees and independent contractors in employment lawsuits.
Second, the lab engages with external partners such as law firms, in-house legal departments, insurance companies, and government agencies to solve real-world data problems. These engagements have included a project that built a tool to identify the characteristics of companies sued for securities fraud, and one that forecasted the outcome of employment lawsuits. Each project was staffed by interdisciplinary teams of analytics and law students and faculty.
Third, the lab’s faculty have developed courses, degree concentrations, and a joint law-analytics degree, all of which bring together students and faculty across the law-business disciplinary divide.
In establishing the Legal Analytics Lab, Georgia State has joined a small number of universities that have launched similar initiatives. However, Georgia State’s lab is the only one of its kind to feature a deep, interdisciplinary collaboration between law and business schools, and to incorporate external partnerships as a central component of the lab’s work.
In its first year, the lab has already made a substantial impact in securing sponsored research awards, generating a pipeline of future funding opportunities, providing students with invaluable experiential and immersive learning opportunities, placing students in legal analytics internships and jobs, attracting extremely high-quality candidates for faculty job openings, and garnering extensive media coverage of the lab’s innovative work.
Specifically, the lab has secured over 300,000 USD in grants from the U.S. Department of Labor and external sponsors from the law and business communities. Faculty are also developing grant applications to be submitted to the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Justice, National Institutes of Health, and private foundations to support further research.
With respect to student involvement, 75 students from the business and law schools have taken a legal analytics class, served as research assistants, or participated in a project for an external sponsor. Two analytics students secured jobs in law firms; law students have begun to broaden their career horizons to consider analytics-related jobs, as well.
The lab is a partnership within Georgia State University between the Robinson College of Business and the College of Law. The lab has also developed relationships with law firms (Alston & Bird and Barrett & Farahany), in-house legal departments (SunTrust Bank), insurance firms (the Starr Companies), and government agencies (the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority).