The importance of big data continues to grow every day as we become more dependent on digital devices and the endless sums of information they produce. Yet, very few of us stop to ponder the true extent of how big data is impacting some of society’s most important professions.
In fact, little is being discussed when it comes to the profound ways big data is influencing the legal profession and changing the judiciary landscape of the nation.
It’s time to start talking about how the information age is challenging our legal system. Here’s how big data is impacting the legal profession, and what leading experts in the field are doing to react.
Even big data is boggling the Supreme Court
Some may take solace in the fact that big data is well-understood by the IT departments that businesses and consumers depend on now more than ever before. The idea that big data is easily understandable to those in power remains questionable. However, many of the nation’s top institutions and most important political actors are still clearly boggled by the rise of big data.
The information age is hectic and confusing with recent court cases already demonstrating that the Supreme Court is having a tough time managing its big data problem.
Seeing the nation’s highest judges being perplexed by questions surrounding the intersection of data and admissibility, it stands to reason that private law firms are also struggling to adapt to the information era.
Corporate legal departments, for instance, have recently been upended in their pursuit of digital modernization strategies that would allow their legal experts to make use of big data in their biggest cases. Data analytics is an area of growing importance for corporate lawyers precisely because large businesses are producing (and consuming) more information these days than anyone else.
Law firms are finding big data useful for everything from tracking their employees to analysing case histories for assistance during heated trials. Even criminal defence lawyers are finding that big data is changing the way that they approach courtroom showdowns, which have always been dominated by the admissibility of certain evidence.
In an age dominated by big data analytics, evidence in the courtroom may become more digital than judicial.
Law enforcement officials are harnessing big data
For law enforcement officials, the rise of big data analytics has largely been a welcomed innovation because it enables them to catch and prosecute a greater number of criminals than ever before.
Despite the fact that law enforcement officials can now scan through reams of data at an unprecedented pace, big data is also proving to generate difficulties in certain areas.
Officials have been doxing online scam artists and hackers with the help of big data analytics for years now. By giving law enforcement officials access to millions of digitised records, savvy big data operations enable police officers to identify dangerous threats to society before they manage to get away.
Furthermore, prosecutors are finding the droves of data generated in the modern age to be useful when it comes to summoning up evidence in support of their legal arguments in court.
For example, Microsoft was recently served a warrant by federal prosecutors who demanded that the private company give investigators access to data that could prove essential to their case.
In the future, we’ll see public-private disputes like this occur in greater numbers, especially as federal investigators and prosecutors come to realise how valuable commercial and personal data is when it comes to detecting and apprehending criminals.
Big data is also changing legal research
Finally, big data is upending the legal profession by changing how scholars research the courts and teach the next generation of budding professionals. For instance, big data has been used to analyse the Supreme Court’s arguments and has discovered that it’s becoming increasingly idiosyncratic.
Such research methods are only going to become more common as this technology becomes cheaper and more widely accessible across the market.
Whether scholars are trying to determine what sort of language the court is using or prosecutors are trying to analyse legal history to find useful precedents in the courtroom, big data is going to be applied in a diverse set of ways over the forthcoming few years.
As digital devices continue to proliferate and the amount of data we generate on a daily basis grows, legal experts will be called upon to answer important questions. How big data’s generation impacts our privacy and commercial copyright laws, will be important questions future lawyers ask themselves.
Big data and case law: product liability example
Big data is a tool for gaining insight and knowledge, and it can be especially helpful in cases where being in the know is not an option. Such is the case when the product can hurt someone, such as pharmaceutical companies.
“Under product liability law, manufacturers and distributors of “dangerous or defective” products are responsible for the injuries those products cause. Injured parties can seek compensation through personal injury lawsuits. Product liability suits can be filed against anyone along a product’s supply chain including the designer, manufacturer, wholesaler, marketer and retailer. These cases are often class action suits,” according to product liability attorneys at Ankin Law Office LLC.
Courts are now connecting big data with manufacturers’ responsibility to be aware of adverse reaction reports, scientific literature and other available information on their drugs, especially when taken in conjunction with other drugs.
As early as 2013, in a product liability case regarding Fosamax medicine, a Federal judge based his findings on the testimony of a data scientist from Columbia University. The judgment against the company found that the manufacturer was obligated to know of adverse reactions when Fosamax was mixed with another drug because it was published in outside studies, which big data access could have revealed easily.
You don’t have to wait for the future to see how big data is changing the law. The modern legal profession is already being upended in the information age, with big data changing how lawyers and scholars everywhere view and work within the courts.
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