How Data Analytics Can Help With Regulatory Compliance

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on October 10, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Does data analytics have a place in the in-house legal department? At more and more companies, the answer is yes.

With increasing frequency, forward thinking in-house attorneys are turning to big data and data analytics to identify risks and ensure compliance. Here's how.

Big Data in the Law Department

You can be forgiven for thinking that "big data" is just a meaningless buzzword. It often is. "Big data" simply refers to the reams and reams of unstructured data in your possession: the contents of emails, the length of phone calls, frequency of transactions, etc. Data analytics takes that "big data" and makes sense of it, identifying patterns, trends, or areas of concern.

What's that mean for the legal department? More ways to identify risks and ensure compliance, for one. Data experts can analyze a company's unstructured data to spot everything from consumer sentiment to potential human trafficking. Forward thinking legal departments have already started hiring on fulltime data analysts and database administrators to help them gather, evaluate, and make sense of big data.

What Are Some Real Life Examples?

It's easy to talk about what data analytics can do, but how are they actually being used today, in everyday in-house work? The most established, familiar use of data analytics is in the eDiscovery process, where data analytics can be used to identify responsive documents and aid the document review process.

But more exciting uses of data analytics are becoming more common too. Last year, Bill Schiefelbein, an eDiscovery expert with Xerox, and Anthony Diana, a litigation partner at Reed Smith, identified ways industries are using analytics to identify emerging risks. Big pharma has been turning to big data to spot off-label marketing, for example, while IT teams at financial institutions are looking at data analytics to find post-merger integration risks.

Companies could also use data analytics to analyze their contact center, replacing random call sampling with review of "non-compliant keywords and phrases," according to Matt Matsui, a senior vice president at Calabrio. Matsui also suggests applying data analytics to the corporate data center to identify suspicious data patterns that could reveal a security breach.

The use of data analytics in corporate law departments is still developing, of course, with plenty of opportunities and applications to explore. But when it comes to big data, analytics, and the law, many in-house legal teams are already well ahead of the curve, at least when compared to their law firm colleagues.

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