Joanna Goodman reviews Eric Hunter’s book The Sherlock Syndrome: Strategic Success through Big Data and the Darwinian Disruption on using big data to transform legal services.
Eric Hunter is a legal technology pioneer. As director of knowledge, innovation & technology strategies at Bradford & Barthel in San Diego, he was a first mover in cloud and open source in the legal sector, introducing Google Apps into the firm in 2009.
He is also a first mover in bringing big data to legal services, using big data analytics to transform Bradford & Barthel’s operations and business model and he heads up the firm’s spin-off consultancy Spherical Models.
The Sherlock Syndrome: Strategic Success through Big Data and the Darwinian Disruption chronicles these developments. It also takes a look at how emerging technologies, particularly around big data and predictive analytics are changing the business environment and our experience within it, as businesses and as consumers.
It all began with Sherlock Holmes – or rather the BBC’s adaptation, ‘Sherlock’, which led Hunter to think about Holmes’ reliance on data to solve problems and how big data and predictive and interpretive analysis are reshaping many industries and consider its potential to transform legal services.
Another source of inspiration is Charles Darwin and Darwinian disruption, in terms of businesses needing to adapt and evolve in order to survive and keep pace with a business environment that is regularly disrupted by innovative technology, is a theme that runs through Hunter’s work – his presentations and articles and now this book.
Hunter blends historical inspiration with technology developments including big data, social consumerism and privacy issues post-Snowden to reimagine the law firm business model, covering flexible pricing, business processes and organisational culture. As well as diverging from the conventional law firm model by applying spherical models that include cloud technology, predictive analytics and data visualisation to legal services delivery, Hunter’s operational model involves significant cultural shifts, particularly in terms of increased transparency and collaboration between different elements within the firm and between the law firm and its clients. This transparency combined with real-time data analytics is used to create a genuinely flexible pricing model designed to maximise competitive advantage and profit margins.
I know Eric Hunter and I have seen him present several times. He is a dynamic, engaging individual; his presentations are knowledgeable and entertaining and in many respects they leave you wanting more – I always want to ask him to expand on the many theories and ideas he touches on.
In this book he does exactly that and sets them in a practical context. It is good to see the developments that he has covered in various articles over the years brought together in one place. Reading about how he developed his ideas around a data-driven legal business model and then put them into practice demonstrates the significance of his achievements and underlines his position as a front-runner in legal technology.
This book covers complex topics, so it is not light reading. Hunter is highly educated and knowledgeable and draws on a broad range of cultural and management education references as well as practical experience. For example he blends principles from Leonardo da Vinci and martial arts in a detailed chapter on the need constantly to reinvent ourselves and manage perceptions, both personally and in terms of business strategy, in order to adapt and evolve in what he describes as our “Darwinian future”. It is not just about predicting the future; it is about innovating and changing to shape the future.
As a commentator on technology and the legal sector I strongly recommend this book to anyone working in or running a mid-sized law firm or other professional services firm – and the model could also apply to numerous other businesses and sectors too. If it is not already on the reading lists of the legal technology modules being taught in forward-thinking law schools, it certainly should be, as I am sure the upcoming generation of lawyers will find it inspirational. [ENDS]
The Sherlock Syndrome: Strategic Success through Big Data and the Darwinian Disruption is published by Ark Group and can be purchased here:
©Joanna Goodman, March 2015
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