Monday, October 3, 2022

We want data to work smarter for us and the entire legal profession – Vicky Crich…

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We live in a data-saturated and data-driven world. So many of the tools we use in our daily lives – from social media to smartwatches – rely on data to provide us with a service. Governments, businesses and organizations rely heavily on data to understand, learn and adapt their services accordingly.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is no different. We store data on over 15,000 complaints against lawyers and law firms over the last 15 years. Each of these complaints tells an individual story, but together they help build a picture of what can go wrong and why, when and how issues can be resolved amicably, and how similar issues could be avoided in the future.

The SLCC has a legal obligation to identify, publish and share trends in legal complaints with the legal profession. This is important because dealing with complaints is not only about solving the problem for the person who complained, but also thinking about what happened in order to learn from it and make sure the same problem doesn’t happen again occurs. Knowing when – and more importantly why – complaints often arise means law firms are reflecting on their own practice and how to manage that risk.

Our data also helps us monitor our own performance to see how long it takes us to resolve complaints and to quickly identify areas where we can make the process more efficient. This was vital to inform the improvement work that has cost us half of our complaint routes over the last few years.

Now we want to take this work to the next level. We have articulated bold digital ambitions in our current corporate strategy, including exploring ways to use new data analytics techniques to help us get the most out of our data. This year we partnered with The Data Lab and had the opportunity to offer an internship to an amazing Data Science MSc student that they matched us with to really test what could be possible with the data we store.

We looked at what the data can tell us about associations between the nature of the complaint and the likelihood that we can help resolve it, or how long it might take us to resolve it. This means we can better understand how to target our resources to be as efficient as possible and provide the best possible service to our customers. We also looked at what natural language processing can tell us about the language of complaints, which can often be very emotional for complainants and lawyers.

This work helps us derive new insights from the data we own and challenges us to think about how we collect, manage, and analyze that data so it works smarter for us.

Ultimately, it’s about improvement. It’s about giving us the data to highlight areas where we could improve the way we work. And it’s about providing the legal profession with the most useful insights so they can better understand what’s causing complaints so they can take action to prevent these problems for their clients. The power of data lies in our response to it – see, understand, and then act.

Vicky Crichton is Director of Public Policy at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

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