Hang around a law firm long enough, and one starts to view everything through the law-firm lens. Take the IBM commercial about predictive analytics that was played over and over during last weekend’s CBS coverage of the Masters Golf Tournament. The commercial speaks to mining “Big Data” in order to predict the future and act on It now. Many lawyers that I work with wonder what the future will bring and they continually challenge law firm marketers to figure it out, as though we have a different crystal ball than they have.

In law firms, we’re so busy reacting, that we really don’t have well-developed acumen about the horizon. I hang around with many law firm marketing leaders and so far I haven’t heard of any law firm that has tapped predictive analytics on the scale that IBM suggests to understand where future litigation and transactions will emerge. And yet, this must be possible. The insurance industry is built around a keen understanding of the probability of future events (like when a policyholder will die). And, we are aware that sophisticated “Big Money” players already are utilizing predictive data methodologies to suggest the outcome of, and fund, large-scale business litigation.

As I watched the IBM commercial over and over during the weekend, it occurred to me that the same lawyers who want to know what the next big issue will be might follow the lead of a railroad in Taiwan, a utility provider in Texas or a global finance company spotting fraud in its very early stages. If they can do it, so can we. When I get a second, I’m going to figure out how.

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