Data analytics is a high or medium priority for almost 60 percent of corporate counsel offices, according to a new survey of legal operations directors.

At the same time, data analysis within corporate law departments will be getting more complex in the coming years, according to HBR Consulting’s Law Department Analytics Survey Report, released May 21.

This prioritization of analytics shows how quickly corporate law departments have decided to mine data to reduce outside spend, and streamline and improve operations, said Andrew Baker, senior director for HBR, a legal industry consultancy.

Five years ago, the term data analytics “wasn’t even in the vernacular, let alone at 60 percent,” he said.

In-house counsel are preforming a wide range of tasks through the use of data, the survey found, including choosing outside counsel and estimating legal spend, evaluating opposing counsel and parties, and reviewing contracts.

Baker said there were 32 respondents to the survey, but they were primarily from the “top end” of the corporate counsel spectrum. This means they were from companies with average gross revenues of about $28 billion, and legal departments with a median of 123 lawyers and almost $100 million in legal spend.

Most of the respondents held positions equivalent to legal operations directors, according to the survey, which was conducted in December 2018 and January 2019.

While 16 percent of respondents said use of data science and analytics was a “high priority,” another 41 percent called it a “medium priority.” Thirty-eight percent said their departments are in early-stage planning, and only 6 percent said it wasn’t a priority.

The survey also found that one in three of the respondents who categorized themselves as “experienced” with data analytics were planning to use data to evaluate outside counsel’s substantive performance, while 40 percent were set to use data to review contracts “and related risk.”

Corporate law departments are gravitating toward applying data science to do more complex tasks. Forty-one percent of respondents said they were currently using data science in “high complexity” cases, compared with 63 percent who said they planned to do so in the future.