Interview | Conrad Karageorge (Jurimetrics)
Daniel (TLF) caught up with Conrad Karageorge, the ambitious former law graduate from Lavan Legal who moved on to establish Australian data analytics platform Jurimetrics - allowing law firms to effectively understand and price legal and government risk to make better business decisions.How did Jurimetrics start? We know it was part of the Vocus Upstart program but we couldn’t find much more than that.Jurimetrics began out of law school. Co-founder Sam Spilsbury and I saw that the law didn’t adopt new technology as well as other industries. Sam had a background in software development and I had a background in financing. We saw that where we could really add value was in creating better tools for solving client problems and becoming their trusted advisor.I had worked in finance and used Bloomberg for the first time and was shocked at how well they knew the world around them – they knew the players and they could make pretty decent estimates on what an industry would look like in 3-5 years time. As a result, they could provide great services to their clients. I was disappointed that law didn’t have that, especially when we need the same level of foresight in advising companies.Our idea was to take the Bloomberg terminal and build that for law – any interaction a company has with a law firm would be recorded and used to better evaluate it.What is legal analytics? The concept of data analytics falls into two different parts: external and internal analytics. External analytics ask how a company’s decision-making affects profitability. Internal metrics ask, “what am I doing for the company and how do I know what impact I am having?”Jurimetrics analyses interactions between people, organisations and government (including courts, legislation and regulatory decisions) to look for risk and opportunity.What is data scraping? It means teaching a computer how to read. It’s going to various websites and documents and teaching the computer to recognise words or areas of a document. For example, we teach it to read the head of a court report and recognise the difference between mentions of a judge as opposed to a solicitor and an area of law.Think of it in terms of actual mining - the documents are the tenements and the data is the resource you need to extract from them.Can data scraping extend beyond recognising simple phrases to understand meanings? Could data scraping, for example, recognise the same thing said in different words? Yes definitely. However, Jurimetrics focuses on the volume of information rather than trying to find greater information within it. Theoretically the sky is the limit and in a few years time a computer could be analysing an entire document itself and pulling out really unique information, but teaching a computer to read like a human is probably a few years off.Data scraping gets a lot more complicated when dealing with legal judgments because judges don’t talk like humans. Words don’t mean the same thing and data analytics typically struggles with that - it’s really more art than science when it gets down to that level.What do you see as being the role of junior lawyers and paralegals given the emergence of data analytics? Will they have to become IT savvy so they can interpret data? Interpretation is a big thing. It will be less about conducting due diligence searches and more about interpreting what the search results actually say about a company. The work will extend beyond conducting searches on the client to looking at comparable companies and what the industry overall is experiencing to see trends in litigation and regulatory intervention.Legal work for young lawyers will also begin to focus on who the most litigious parties are within an industry and which entities pose the greatest risk to investment – strategic questions. Young lawyers will be able to focus on making commercial decisions with the law using statistics to back up their recommendations.Charts aren’t predictive; it’s really what you see in them. The one lawyer that gets it right now gets a value add to their company –that’s where we think the value is for law firms, and in particular, the junior lawyer.Is it accurate to say that the traditional metrics of success like firm size, reputation and pre-existing relationships will be less important than who has a winning record? We feel that win-loss records actually don’t have a lot of value when evaluating lawyers. Law firms are of the opinion that they are probably meaningless because it doesn’t factor in the difficulty of the cases a lawyer takes on. Win-loss records are probably not as good a metric as experience and whether a lawyer understands a particular area.In Perth we see the importance of experience in mining law. A firm may have run multiple cases for very large companies, but that experience doesn’t necessarily translate to the needs of a small cap miner. Jurimetrics can assist a client in identifying the companies that have had a similar matter and their representation to isolate a firm you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. This capability can be as specific as isolating the particular section of legislation in question.So legal analytics is about the art of seeing value where other people are missing it?Yes definitely, it’s about the story behind the data. It’s being able to see the information, what’s good data and what’s bad data. Everyone is going on hunches. That is data in and of itself; it's just opinions and really intangible stuff, it’s bad data though, not something you should be making decisions on.Does Jurimetrics enable under-resourced parties to level the playing field to a degree by ensuring they have the insight to know exactly the representation that best serves them and how they can get value for money?Jurimetrics gives smaller law firms a much bigger resource. Typically large firms can throw bodies at a problem and have a wealth of knowledge about an industry on-hand. Large firms can crowd-source the information they need, but our technology gives that level of insight to all users. You can also see how particular laws are affecting a business and who is being disproportionately affected by legislation.There are several ethical implications with big data and legal analytics. Do you feel any sort of responsibility for the proper use of the data you’re collecting? We take ethical guidelines really seriously. But we’re the first guys out there so we are making this up to some extent. Data analytics needs to be made by the legal community for the legal community.We start getting into the grey area with judges' decisions and making comments about the political nature of a judgment based on previous data that suggests they are somewhat inclined to a particular issue or policy. For us, the data is out there: what that means is in the hands of the lawyer.We deal almost exclusively in data that’s in the public domain. We won’t use anything that’s private or even semi-private. It’s things that have been published. We stay on the public side of the data debate.We have a pretty strict code of ethics and we focus on how law firms can better serve clients. There is an area of grey where there are data companies to which the law has not caught up. Governments are very slow when it comes to regulating new technology. You have to understand you are in unchartered waters and you have to be careful.