More and more law firms are delving into data-driven analytics to win cases, transform their business and boost their bottom line. What trends are driving this industry to new heights? Here are six that are having their moment.

Trend #1: More firms will incorporate analytics into their long-term strategic initiatives

Leveraging analytics to accomplish legal objectives creates astonishing strategic advantages for law firms, especially over opponents who don’t do the same, says Bennett Borden, chief data scientist at Drinker Biddle and Reath LLP.“Virtually every answer a lawyer could ever want is contained somewhere in the vast data sphere we’ve created about ourselves,” he says.Going forward, the lawyer who knows how to get at those answers quickly and with certainty will always win out over the lawyer who doesn’t, Borden adds.“We’re getting to the point where not knowing how to effectively practice law in the information age is a grave disservice to our clients, and the market will weed those firms out,” he says.

Trend #2: People, processes & technology will win the day

Techniques like supervised machine learning, probabilistic modeling and other forms of statistical engineering will find greater acceptance in the market, says Tom Barnett, chief of data science at Paul Hastings LLP. “There will be an increasing recognition that the most effective means of deriving useful, targeted information from large, complex data sets is the symbiotic interaction between people who really understand the matter or case and the technology that is capable of building on that knowledge.”Change is coming, he adds, “faster than you may think.” Many well-established but demonstrably inefficient tools and processes, he explains, will begin to give way to more effective ways for people to interact with and learn from data.

Trend #3: Openness to integrations will be key

“The openness to integrations is one of the most important developments of the last several years, especially as more startups have entered the space and vendors have embraced the cloud,” says Scott Springer, a director at HBR Consulting. “Ensuring data quality has challenged law firms in recent years, and these issues primarily stem from a lack of a true system of record. This is thanks to the various systems in use that do not interact with one another.”The industry, Springer adds, will continue to see platform providers and software companies embracing open APIs.“Law firms will also continue to find new and exciting ways to combine their data in a way that allows them to capitalize on their knowledge and expertise,” he says.

Trend #4: Specialized staff and informed lawyers will drive analytics adoption

In 2017, a large number of Am Law 200 firms began developing internal structures to investigate and use analytic tools, says Warren Agin, founder of Analytic Law LLC and of counsel to Boston’s Swiggart & Agin.“I see this trend spreading to the rest during 2018 as firms realize that maintaining a future competitive advantage will require both specialized staff and better informed partners and associates,” he says.He adds that most firms will hire a C-level employee, such as a chief innovation officer, to drive adoption, and there will be serious talk about letting non-lawyers hold ownership interests in U.S.-based law firms.“Firms will realize that they need greater flexibility to raise capital and attract highly trained employees who aren’t lawyers,” he says.

Trend #5: Increasing efficiency of digitization of analog legal records will spur growth

The poor availability of usable data is an important limitation of many areas of law, says Andrew Torrance, research professor at the University of Kansas School of Law.“Although the law generates mountains of information, much of this remains in analog form; imprisoned behind proprietary walls; or difficult to parse, compare and interpret,” he says.Efficient and inexpensive optical character recognition technology is breaking this impasse, Torrance explains, by allowing documents to be converted into digital forms conducive to data analysis.“This is creating an accelerating stockpile of raw material and fuel sure to spur the growth of legal analytics,” he says.

Trend #6: Awareness of AI and blockchain will boom

The awareness of AI and blockchain in the legal industry will double or triple, with 95 percent of law firms attempting to associate their firms with these technologies, says Duc Chu, technology innovation officer at Holland & Hart.“However,” he cautions, “adoption of these technologies outside of certain embedded mainstream applications will remain less than ‘leading edge’ or ‘early adopters’ on the typical adoption bell curve, and will occur at less than 20 percent of all firms.” Sharon Goldman has been covering B2B technology topics for over 10 years, including for publications such as, Adweek, Digital Insurance, Shopper Marketing and DMNews.