Nearly two hundred years ago, Matthew Fontaine Maury of the U.S. Navy convinced ship captains of navies and merchant marines around the world to utilize a uniform system of recording oceanographic data. He asked them to capture temperature, speed and direction of wind and waves during the same time period. Analyzing this incredibly rich and big data allowed Maury to chart and identify efficient sea lanes where the winds and currents were more favorable. Through Maury’s charts sailors could use ocean’s currents and winds to their advantage and drastically reduce the length of ocean voyages, often by as much as a third, which delivered a large savings for merchants. Maury was nicknamed “Pathfinder of the Seas”.
Maury’s story offers several salient lessons for the business of law. Datafication of a process, no matter how ancient and ingrained, enables analytics that have the potential to reveal insights with profound impact, on any profession.