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In Legal Disputes, Make the Most of Your Own ‘Big Data’

April 10, 2014

Corporations are sometimes faced with lawsuits whose allegations look plausible. The general counsel knows they are not true, but the legal team needs to prove it. The author, using a hypothetical, explains that this often can be done with data maintained in business computer systems in the form of what is known as “structured data.”

Structured data is stored in fields that are defined in an exacting way by the software. To effectively search structured data, one needs to understand where it’s found. This information can be gleaned by way of a kind of inventory of the data, referred to by IT experts as a “data dictionary,” which includes critical information that describes the name of each field in the software package, its size, its layout, a description of what should be found in it, its location, and the meaning of its codes and abbreviations.

Using contemporaneously collected data as a basis for addressing litigation issues is always more convincing than trying to “model” data. Most organizations collect significantly more data than even their most technically proficient IT people realize. The most accurate  way of determining what relevant data is actually collected is by locating and analyzing the data dictionary.

Once the universe of data is understood, data relevant to the ligation can be extracted from the systems within the organization and “joined” into one database that will allow for the complete examination and, hopefully, resolution of the litigation.

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