National firm Eversheds says it is the first law firm to offer its clients ‘big data’ techniques to help them understand competitors’ business strategies and avoid major risks.

Big data is an IT industry buzz phrase for the analysis of very large sets of data – for example, comments ‘scraped’ from websites such as Twitter and customers’ location revealed by their mobile phones – to produce useful intelligence. Banking, healthcare and retail businesses are all investing heavily in the sector.

In the legal sphere, its use has so far been limited to electronic disclosure, and some work on costs.

However Eversheds’ chief information officer Paul Caris told the Gazette that the firm will be using big data tools to support clients’ own businesses. ‘Rather than attempting to create big data, we are acquiring data sets that relate to the industry sectors that involve and interest our clients,’ he said.

The firm is working with ‘sentiment analysis’ – using data gleaned from social media sites to visualise perceptions of a business or brand. Eversheds says it has installed five state-of-the-art interactive touch tables – devices that visualise data in a graphical representation – to help experts map data and behavioural patterns in real time.

Caris said that shipping is one business area where collating public data sets will highlight useful information.