Solicitors should become more like management consultants as computer technology takes over legal analysis, a City partner has proposed.

Alex Oddy, a partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, said the emergence of systems that predict the outcomes of cases has prompted ‘a change of mind set’ among lawyers, who have the tools to become ‘a lot more like super-forecasters’.

Speaking at an event about the fast-growing field of litigation analytics, Oddy said: ‘There is an element of needing to develop our thinking and move towards being dispute management consultants. But that’s not an invitation to management consultants to move onto our turf!’ 

Alex Oddy

Alex Oddy

Automated litigation analysis involves taking data from past case law and a judge’s history to identify trends and patterns and to predict the outcomes of a case. Recent experiments have shown that systems can predict the outcome of European Court of Human Rights cases with a 79% accuracy.

Herbert Smith Freehills is partnering with Solomonic, a  London start-up which has developed a litigation analytics program that predicts the outcomes of commercial cases by analysing previous judgments. The product uses a ‘deep learning' algorithm to process hundreds of thousands of data points, including the success rate of difference types of claim and the habits of individual judges. According to Gideon Cohen, co-founder and barrister at One Essex Court, the product can even predict which text books a certain judge is likely to rely on and how long they will take to produce a judgment.

Cohen founded Solomonic with David Cohen, a solicitor, and analytics consultant Dr Henry Stott. Other users include Pinsent Masons and Stewarts.

Solomonic’s’ chair, Natalina Bertoli, said litigation analytics will put legal decision making more in line with other ‘high value board room decisions’ and will ‘support a more business-oriented approach'. However, Bertoli stressed that ‘decision making, for the foreseeable future, will remain very much in the human domain’.

Oddy added: ‘The phrase “I’m a lawyer; I don’t do numbers” is not acceptable any more…In many ways, it’s a question of why it has taken so long for the delivery of legal advice to evolve. Why is it OK to use language like “reasonable prospects”…when every one of us attaches a different meaning to that concept?’

When asked about the potential risks of litigation analytics, Emma Deas, a senior associate at Herbert Smith Freehills, said ‘number fixation’ could become an issue. ‘It’s about having a conversation around the number. You need to be able to put the number within the spectrum of likelihood,’ she said. Oddy agreed, saying 'it's not about following the numbers slavishly'.