In Fall 2018 GSU’s College of Law offered a new class to its students, Legal Analytics. The inaugural class, one of the only of its kind offered in the country, put Georgia State University’s College of Law and J. Mack Robinson College of Business at the cutting edge of legal data analytics. Charlotte Alexander, Director of GSU’s Legal Analytics Lab, taught the class, with help from Professor Nicole Iannarone, then head of the Investor Advocacy Clinic. Using a network of experts from a variety of areas of law and technology, Alexander introduced and guided the class into the quickly developing area of legal work.
The class focused on using research methods to analyze legal documents in an attempt to derive patterns and statistical information on FINRA arbitration agreements. FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc.) is a non-governmental private corporation operating under the SEC to regulate investors, brokerage firms and exchange markets.
Students from the College of Law and College of Business teamed up and, after reviewing the database of over 50k legal documents, chose a research question for their student projects. Limited only by time and resource, the teams chose various topics and methodologies to explore over the course of the semester, including, for example, investigating the impact of factors such as hearing location, case duration, claim type, representation type, arbitrator panel composition, and number of previous FINRA appearances on parties’ win rates.
The semester culminated in final presentations, which students gave to an audience made of lawyers from Atlanta’s leading law firms, representatives from the SEC, FINRA, Thomson Reuters, and Above the Law (check out this article on Alexander from them: alt.legal: Legal Analytics Is Heating Up In Hotlanta) and experts in legal technology, FINRA arbitration and legal analytics. Together, the students and experts participated in a conversation about the future of legal analytics, what may come of it, and how it may shape the legal industry in the process.
“The class is a direct result of a collaboration across campus, including law school and business school which houses the data analytics lab,” said Alexander. “This class is one of a larger set of courses, programming, research projects, and activities housed within our law school’s Legal Analytics and Innovation Initiative and our business school’s Legal Analytics Lab. GSU is establishing itself at the forefront of legal analytics and computational law, and we’re excited to share the progress we’re making.”
The Applied Legal Analytics Lab, much like the Legal Analytics class, combines the unique strengths of J.D. students and Robinson graduate analytics students. J.D. students help the data science students understand the goals of the analysis, the terminology in the legal documents, and the queries that will best pull the information from the documents. The data science students convert the legal documents into searchable text, write code to best apply the queries, and help the J.D. students understand the limitations of the searches. “The end result is insight into what happened in the past and what may happen in the future,” said Anne Tucker, Professor and Faculty Director of the Legal Analytics & Innovation Initiative.