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Interactive visualization for spending and staffing data – the look of the future for law departments

Data visualization software for legal departments will someday go beyond the static presentation of data graphics. My earlier posts covered much of that basic level (See my post of May 7, 2008: methods to portray data with 9 references; 22 cited in one.).

Even slightly more elaborate graphics unnerve many in-house counsel. Numbers and patterns are alien and a bit intimidating. For most of them, a modest pictorial effect – no animation, please! – will be quite enough (See my post of Sept. 28, 2008: lawyers are less comfortable with images than with words; Jan. 15, 2009: box-and-whisker plots; March 1, 2009: cartograms; March 20, 2009 #1: Tableau data visualization software; March 26, 2009: offshore data analytics; July 10, 2009: plotlines add much more to timelines; Feb. 10, 2010: business intelligence, data mining, portals draw on data portrayal; June 29, 2010: Codean software for cross references; and Dec. 24, 2010: expertise network portrayed visually at IBM.). Thus, to go beyond charts in a dashboard to an interactive, dynamic presentation stands as far off as science fiction.

Much more is on the horizon for law departments to array and make data compelling. The NY Times, April 3, 2011 at BU3, conveys some of the excitement and “visceral comprehension” that could be unleashed. Imagine ten years of data on the size of law firms paid by a department depicted as spheres and their color showing the yearly amounts. Or budgets to actual each year over a decade could be vividly stretched and compressed in front of the viewer. Maybe the locations of offices around the world could pop up and expand or shrink over time. For a group of cases, key events could show on a timeline next to a rising bar of costs. As the article says, “the brain is more attracted to and able to process dynamic images than long lists of numbers.”

Interactive visualization of large sets of data is within sight.

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