Jeff Pfeifer is chief product officer for LexisNexis. He is responsible for overall product strategy for LexisNexis Legal and...
Jared D. Correia, Esq. is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business...
Data is indispensable to modern lawyering, but there are still many attorneys who aren’t leveraging it to its full potential. So what does it really take to become both data literate and data competent? Jared Correia and LexisNexis CPO Jeff Pfeifer discuss the types of tools and training that can help lawyers gain deeper insights into the data they use on a daily basis. Jeff explains data literacy’s competitive benefits for law firms, how it helps attorneys win in the courtroom, and why today’s firms should offer in-depth data literacy training.
Jeff Pfeifer is chief product officer for LexisNexis.
The Legal Toolkit
Data Literacy Guidance for Law Firms
Intro: Welcome to Legal Toolkit, bringing you the latest legal trends and business initiatives to help you manage your law firm, with your host Jared Correia. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Jared Correia: Hey everybody. Welcome to another episode of the award-winning Legal Toolkit Podcast here on the Legal Talk Network. If you are looking for the new season of ‘Stranger Things’, don’t spoil it for me, I haven’t seen it.
If you are a returning listener, welcome back. If you are a first-time listener, hopefully you will become a longtime listener. And if you are Donald Trump, you probably need to do a little bit more research on Revolutionary War history.
As always, I am your show host, Jared Correia, and in addition to casting this pod, I am the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law practice management consulting services for law firms, Bar associations and legal vendors. Check us out at redcavelegal.com.
I am also the COO of Gideon Software, Inc., which offers chatbots, the first to market chatbot builder and predictive analytics created specifically for law firms. Find out more at www.gideon.legal.
And because I don’t have enough to do, you can also listen to my other other podcast, The Lobby List, a family travel show I host with my dear wife Jessica, and that’s on iTunes. Subscribe, rate and comment.
But here, on The Legal Toolkit, the podcast we are doing right now, we provide you twice each month with a new tool to add to your own legal toolkit so your practices will become more-and-more like best practices.
In this episode we are going to talk about Digital Literacy for Law Firms, so this is going to be fun.
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All right, thanks everybody for sticking around. My guest today is Jeff Pfeifer and Jeff is the Chief Product Officer for North America at LexisNexis, sounds like a really big job. He is based out of Raleigh-Durham North Carolina on the campus of North Carolina State University. Go WolfTech.
Jeff is responsible for product strategy, roadmap and product lifecycle planning, customer segment development initiatives and marketing initiatives that yield rapid revenue growth for online and mobile solutions.
Jeff, how are you today? Thanks for coming on the podcast.
Jeff Pfeifer: Oh Jared, it’s great to be with you today. Thanks for having me on.
Jared Correia: You’ve been waiting for this, right? Is this bucket list for you or what?
Jeff Pfeifer: Bucket list for sure, but for sure it’s great to be with you and your listeners.
Jared Correia: Yes, excellent, all right. I’m kind of disappointed that you came on Bob Ambrogi’s podcast first, but I’ll try not to hold that against you.
Jeff Pfeifer: Oh, sorry about that; my fault, my fault.
Jared Correia: So, this is interesting. So, you are located at your LexisNexis campus at the North Carolina State University and it sounds like you’re doing some really cool stuff with the University. So, let me allow you to elaborate on that and shut up for a moment.
Jeff Pfeifer: Sure, sure. Well, it’s been an exciting run for us. We moved quite a bit of our product development to this campus. About five years ago we started a journey for the organization, and we did that for a few reasons. First, as we looked out and saw the kind of product development challenges that were impending in the legal market, we saw a need to both partner with some world-class researchers like exist at NC State University and also frankly because we needed to get access to great talent and at the University we have that in tremendous numbers.
The Computer Sciences Department here is doing a lot of really cutting-edge work in fields like Data Analytics and in Big Data Mining, and the Computer Sciences Department is growing in stature. So, for us it was really an opportunity because they’ve created this place on the campus where businesses exist and can do that kind of joint research, collaboration, and development.
For us it seemed like a great place to think about growing our product development center, and so now this serves as our global hub for product development at LexisNexis and we’ve grown from about 200 folks here five years ago to about 800 now.
Jared Correia: That’s amazing. So you guys are officially a member of the ACC now, is that how that works?
Jeff Pfeifer: I think we’d be an adjunct member, maybe only for basketball observation.
Jared Correia: Nice. Yeah, so that’s great. So it sounds like you have a lot of talent at your disposal and I know like this probably affects a number of different products that you provide, right, because you guys are doing a lot of work in data analytics at least in the research space, right?
Jeff Pfeifer: That’s right, yeah. And so, if you think about the kinds of skills that maybe we needed as an organization five years ago or definitely ten years ago, compared to what we’re trying to do now through mining of big data collections and extracting insights that are in the data but weren’t previously knowable, new technology gives us the opportunity to mine those datasets like never before, and I often say that lawyers have always had questions they wanted answered, but traditional search methods couldn’t yield those answers and we can do that now using tools like data analytics and some advanced AI-type technologies. So that really translates for us into skill-sets that are able to work with all of those technologies, and that’s why this location made a lot of sense to us.
Jared Correia: Yeah, that’s fantastic. And so, this idea of data and data literacy is important, and this is what we’re going to talk about today. As you know there’s like an enormous amount of data that lawyers need to deal with on a daily basis and that number is like growing significantly every day, and I think a lot of lawyers have difficulty with that wrapping their arms around it.
So, one thing you talked about was this idea of data literacy, but then there’s also this notion of data competency. So could you talk a little bit about what the difference is between those two like what does data literacy mean and how does that compare to having data competency would mean?
Jeff Pfeifer: Yeah, so when you start the journey to think about how you might interact with datasets differently, I look at those two labels that you used, data literacy and data competency as levels of expertise.
So, for any lawyer that’s thinking about how he or she might use large datasets differently than they have previously, data literacy is that first threshold. Are you able to understand that important insights can be gleaned by mining data differently, leveraging analytics tools, using new technologies that can help you mine those insights?
And for those that reach some level of data literacy, you likely rely on others in your organization, maybe your law firm has created a center where there’s a few people that are really expert at these skills. You know to ask the right questions, you know that somebody is there that can help you.
Data competency on the other hand would usually involve the lawyer asking those questions directly and putting fingers on the keyboard and querying those datasets again him or herself, and we think that latter stage is really important because while you can understand some insights by asking the right questions of a third party, the power of analytics is really the review of the data and being able to see those insights develop as you query different databases and datasets.
So, for us again they’re both important stages in one’s evolution and learning how to mine data differently, how to answer important legal questions that you’ve always wanted to know the answer to, but they’re marked by a key distinction.
In the first stage you think about what questions you want to answer and you ask someone to help you do that, in the latter stage you’re really in control of that journey yourself and you are really focused on mining those datasets directly.
Jared Correia: Yeah, I think that’s really important distinction that you make is that like a lot of lawyers kind of, I think feel like they’re on an island, as far as this is concerned, and they feel like they have to do it all on their own, but part of what you’re saying is in some instances in terms of like the data literacy component here, it’s okay to access people for help, potentially people who are not lawyers, right?
Jeff Pfeifer: Yeah, in fact we would observe after talking literally to hundreds of law firms across the country that most individuals go through that first step, someone else is helping at the beginning part of that journey and I think really progressive law firms have built that infrastructure, so that they understand it’s important to build a few power users, it’s important to have someone in the organization that knows what they’re doing and can model behaviors for others.
So as a firm thinks about how it might mature and become more data-literate first and data-competent later it would be often the case that you have to create these mechanisms where people can learn what good looks like, rely on others to get that momentum and then slowly over time build those competencies and practices themselves to ultimately become fluid and fluent in the use of these kinds of technologies and tools.
Jared Correia: That’s cool. So I think we are going to stop right there for now and take a quick break, so a modeling behavior that Legal Talk Network would really enjoy by introducing you to some sponsors.
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Jared Correia: All right, thanks for sticking around everybody. We appreciate it. I found an old PEZ dispenser under the couch, so I’m good for the next 15 minutes or so. We’re talking to Jeff Pfeifer of LexisNexis on the podcast today and we’re here to talk about data literacy and data competency. So let’s get back to it.
Jeff, I thought that was a really great first segment of the show and we talked a little bit about the difference between data literacy and data competency. So, let’s talk now, because I think this is an important topic for attorneys like what are some barriers to attorneys getting competent about data or even getting literate about data in the first instance because there’s stuff that lawyers need to overcome here, right?
Jeff Pfeifer: Absolutely. I often say apply this test to yourself, are you a lawyer who relies on your individual experience, some level of gut instinct and maybe in the halls of the firm what you might call anecdotal evidence of what another lawyer says, a judge is likely to do. If that’s you, then I would say, you are probably at the very earliest stage of this evolution and probably need to think about what things are changing because peer law firms and peer lawyers are starting to use much more sophisticated methods to answer questions like what venue should I select or how is my judge likely to behave in a certain scenario?
So, I would say first, firms that are less advanced in this area are probably still relying on what we call Annecdata, the idea that someone’s personal experience is going to power most of the decision insights that they offer to clients and we think increasingly the leading firms are relying much, much less on Annecdata, and more on data that is the result of mining these datasets so that you can actually get insights into what is likely to happen or what behavior suggests is likely to happen.
Jared Correia: Annecdata, I hope you trademarked that, yes?
Jeff Pfeifer: No, not yet. So, free for everybody to use.
Jared Correia: You got a little while to work on that before we publish this podcast. Now, I think that’s an important distinction. I think mostly — like Annecdata I think what lawyers are traditionally referred to as like gut reactions, like just based on their personal impressions of how their firm works, but yeah, I think part of this is personality based. So, there are, in my estimation, like a lot of younger lawyers, especially who are more reliant or more willing to be reliant, I should say on data. So let’s transition then, we’ve talked about some of the barriers that are out there, but let’s talk about some of the benefits because I think that’s a real driver here. So, why is it important for lawyers to become data literate, data competency and how will that help law firms?
Jeff Pfeifer: Well, think about it through this lens, if you will. I like to say that data literacy is required because some big things are changing at the macro level. The amount of data that attorneys are required to handle is increasing exponentially. I’ll just use our own database at LexisNexis as an example; just a couple of years ago was doubling in size about every 32 months.
Now it’s doubling in size about every 28 months and in about two years we think it will drop down to about every 22 to 24 months, and that is a massive dataset, and it’s reflective of the amount of information that’s being published that lawyers have access to.
So the fact that they have to mine that level of information for insights, it means that traditional tools like search and retrieval and some of those techniques are no longer sufficient. So number one, there is a big macro level driver for why this is necessary.
Second, as we talked about earlier, there are real competitive benefits that a firm can get by leveraging tools like this more effectively. They can understand how they likely compare to peer firms, how an individual lawyer compares to opposing counsel, how a corporation is likely to behave when managing motion strategy.
So again, these are things that are all knowable now, so there is a real competitive advantage we believe that can help both win in the courtroom and more broadly win new business.
And finally, the ability to quickly respond to requests that come from clients in meaningful ways. So can you sit on the telephone with outside counsel and say, what is likely to happen in this scenario so that you can better craft strategy is something that’s now definitely possible as a result of the kinds of tools and techniques that are now being applied to big legal datasets.
Jared Correia: Jeff, you are bringing the heat today, I am impressed.
Jeff Pfeifer: I appreciate it.
Jared Correia: So if you are out there and you are a lawyer and you are not yet data literate or data competent, now you know why you need to be.
So let’s talk about the other thing that lawyers tend to focus on, which is worst case scenarios, right? What thing is bad that could result from this thing we are trying to do? So as opposed to benefits, what are some of the risks of not becoming data literate, like what if you are data illiterate as a lawyer, what kind of risk are involved there in terms of like practical applications to the practice of law?
Jeff Pfeifer: Well, first, I would say here that outside counsel is ahead of many law firms in this space. So we know from our own experience that tools like we offer, take Lex Machina for example, that was actually started by a group of major corporations that were really concerned about the level of insights available in patent litigation.
So what we see is that in-house counsel is much further advanced in their use of analytics capabilities at this stage than are law firms. So from a competitive perspective, I would say first and foremost, in-house counsels are using these tools to make choices about law firms and to evaluate firm performance. So it’s important that you know what’s in the data before outside counsel does and it’s important I think that any law firm demonstrate its own literacy and competency by bringing these kinds of datasets or data information to the discussion, because it’s really likely that the outside counsel that you are talking to has that information.
Jared Correia: Right, this is a real thing, we have talked about this on previous episodes of the podcast as well. Like I think lawyers previously tended to just try to be efficient because they thought it was a good thing to do, but now like the ability to monitor like a lawyer’s efficiency is a game changer, I think in a lot of ways. Would you agree?
Jeff Pfeifer: I would, and I would also say that in reviewing a number of pitch decks from law firms across the country that have been submitted to outside counsel, you will see that phrase I used earlier, annecdata repeatedly in pitches, like the judge is likely to do this.
And opposing counsel is increasingly saying likely because of what data, likely because of your personal experience or likely because you have done research to understand what does the data tell you, because it very well might be the case that the outside counsel will select a particular litigation strategy based on what is likely to happen. So choices about motion strategy, as I referenced earlier, or where to file, those are questions that you can get a much better idea of what the right choice is by doing that data work ahead of time.
Jared Correia: Yeah, no, that’s a great practical example. We are smoking here on The Legal Toolkit Podcast, but we have come to our final break. We are six questions in already. While I sew a new rhinestone jacket for myself, another one, listen to these words from our sponsors.
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Jared Correia: All right, thanks for coming back one more time. I had a fluffernutter while you were gone, it was delicious. So let’s get back to our conversation with Jeff Pfeifer of LexisNexis. We are talking about data literacy and data competence for lawyers and let’s dive back in.
So Jeff, we have talked about a lot of stuff in the beginning of this podcast, the first two segments, but we talked a little bit about like lawyers and attorneys personally, like what can they do to become more data literate/data competent. How about law firms, like what can law firms work on to ensure that their attorneys are more data literate, things like internal trainings, internal programs, tech boot camps, like what have you seen out there that works to bring lawyers up to speed, individual lawyers?
Jeff Pfeifer: That’s a great question Jared, because I think that it points to a more fundamental thing, which is that the law firm has to create that infrastructure in order to ensure that the attorneys both feel comfortable and are given an opportunity to learn.
So you referenced a few things that we are seeing by leading firms in the organization, explicit internal training programs, where use of data is the focus of the program. Increasingly we are seeing technology boot camps.
You may have seen in the news today that Michigan, for example, is the latest state to explore a technical competence model in renewal of license, and I think increasingly we are going to see, not just a broad technical competence, but a competence in these kinds of technical skill areas, like use of analytics capabilities. We have already seen analytics capabilities quoted in a number of judicial decisions, so I think that’s likely to increase.
We have also seen some of the leading firms leverage this best practice model or this very skilled individual who exhibits behaviors that are transferable to others in the firms.
I would suggest that your readers might take a look at, Law360 did a really interesting profile on a group of lawyers that it awarded the inaugural data-driven lawyer awards to earlier this year. And each of those five winners of that award exhibited many of these things that we are talking about. They had either developed boot camps where there were specific learning opportunities. They created model behaviors through individuals or they created these centers within the firm where they really encouraged attorneys within the firm to understand both what was possible and then leverage the capabilities that existed out of those centers.
So I think that the progressive firms in the country are really exploring how do we create the right infrastructure so that both we acknowledge that this is a learning curve and that we are going to support your development as you become more comfortable with using data to make choices and decisions.
Jared Correia: Do you know that I won the first annual Double Stuf Oreo driven lawyer award, which was given out last year? I am very proud of that.
Jeff Pfeifer: It sounds like it was hotly competitive, I am sure.
Jared Correia: It was, it was, a lot of people throwing down on that.
So I think that’s a great introduction to like how law firms can improve data literacy for lawyers. So let’s drill down to like some specific use cases here, right, so law firms that are implementing data literacy programs currently and the results they have achieved so other law firms could potentially copy that model if they wish.
Jeff Pfeifer: Definitely. I mean I think that that’s one thing that’s interesting. I see many firms in this space sharing best practices, and while that might seem somewhat counterintuitive because you are likely competing with these individuals, I think the people that are leading in this space are really modeling the behavior, both in their firms and outside. They are speaking at all the likely places and they are talking about what is really making a difference.
I think that the profession more broadly sees that this opportunity is really responsive to some of the improvements that in-house counsels are looking for. They are looking for those improvements to performance efficiency and driving real productivity gains and I think those are the kinds of things that we can see if these tools are applied.
Jared Correia: All right Jeff, you have been a good sport to this point. So now this is time for my new favorite segment on the podcast called Tweets You Forgot About, in which I reference a tweet you made and ask you to comment on it. Are you ready?
Jeff Pfeifer: Sounds good.
Jared Correia: Good, good, good. It was mostly a rhetorical question I was going to ask you anyway. Here is your tweet sir. May 8, you tweeted, And the first star of the game tonight was the @NHL referee for handing another game seven win to @SanJoseSharks. The Avalanche were robbed.
So Denver native, Avalanche fan?
Jeff Pfeifer: Oh, long-term resident of Denver, you got me on that one, a moment of fury at the hands of the referees in the NHL playoffs. So yes, I think that the data is on my side too as we look at the replays from that game.
Jared Correia: I am still traumatized, 2010 NBA Finals, game 7, Celtics were robbed, watch the fourth quarter everybody.
So as an Avalanche fan, I have got two follow up questions for you. I would ask you to choose one, Bourque or Rob Blake?
Jeff Pfeifer: Oh, that’s really tough. I think I would have to go — boy, I would have to go with Bourque.
Jared Correia: Oh nice, I love that.
Jeff Pfeifer: He was at the heart of our one-time rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings, so those were really good days.
Jared Correia: Lastly, maybe even a tougher question, Sakic or Forsberg?
Jeff Pfeifer: You are killing me today. My personal sweater, as they say in hockey, is Sakic, but I would actually have to go with Forsberg. He was just lightning and great for the team.
Jared Correia: I am on board man. I am a Peter Forsberg fan, although I was really into the Avalanche in those days as well. Ray Bourque got traded from the Bruins and I was like I think I will like become a fan of the Avalanche for a little bit. So good on you. I will just add in Denver as well, great city to visit.
On that note, completely unrelated to anything else we have talked about, we are going to end the show.
So we have reached yet another episode — the end of yet another episode of The Legal Toolkit Podcast. This was the podcast about data literacy and data competence for lawyers and law firms and we have been talking with the great Jeff Pfeifer of LexisNexis.
Now, I will be back on future shows with further insights into my soul, the soul of America and the legal market. But if you are feeling nostalgic for my dulcet tones at any point, you can check out our entire show archive anytime you want at legaltalknetwork.com.
Thanks again to Jeff Pfeifer of LexisNexis for making an appearance as my guest today.
So Jeff, now is the time when I ask you, how can folks find out more about you and about the products you work on at LexisNexis?
Jeff Pfeifer: Well, speaking of Twitter, follow me on Twitter @JeffPfeifer, that’s Jeff Pfeifer and you can check out our website at lexisnexis.com.
Jared Correia: And people should follow your burner account @avsfan99 too, right?
Jeff Pfeifer: That one has much lower traffic.
Jared Correia: So thanks again to Jeff Pfeifer of LexisNexis, who has been a great sport today and we have enjoyed talking with him. And finally, thanks to all of you out there for listening. This has been The Legal Toolkit Podcast, where we haven’t won a Stanley Cup in at least 40 years.
Outro: Thanks for listening to Legal Toolkit, produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network. Join host Jared Correia for his next podcast covering the current business trends for law firms.
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