The NY Times’ declaration that we have entered the Age of Big Data suggests we are ever closer to realizing author Richard Susskind’s ("End of Lawyers?") predictions for lawyers.

What is Big Data?  According to the NY Times:

A meme and a marketing term, for sure, but also shorthand for advancing trends in technology that open the door to a new approach to understanding the world and making decisions. There is a lot more data, all the time, growing at 50 percent a year, or more than doubling every two years, estimates IDC, a technology research firm. It’s not just more streams of data, but entirely new ones.

These developments create a huge need for persons who understand and can manage, analyze and apply the flood of data – including among other things posts, blogs, images and video on the Web and streams of sensor data from industrial equipment, automobiles, electrical meters, shipping crates, the environment and people (think sensors that measure and communicate location, movement, hear rate, vibration, temperature, humidity, even chemical changes in the air) – in meaningful ways:

A report last year by the McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm of the consulting firm, projected that the United States needs 140,000 to 190,000 more workers with “deep analytical” expertise and 1.5 million more data-literate managers, whether retrained or hired.

These developments suggest we are that much closer to realizing Mr. Susskind’s "Five Types of Corporate Lawyers Predicted for the Future" (, 10/19/09), which describes how lawyers who embrace emerging technologies and novel ways of sourcing legal work will continue to be successful, while those unwilling to change will struggle to survive.  Mr. Susskind predicts that there will be five types of lawyers in the future: expert trusted advisers and enhanced practitioners, who will look much like contemporary lawyers, to be joined by legal knowledge engineers, legal risk managers and legal hybrids.

Of the predicted categories, there will be far less need for lawyers in either of the first two categories and conversely a much greater need for "legal knowledge engineers," as stated by Mr. Susskind:

If I am right and legal service will increasingly be standardized and (in various ways) computerized, then people with great talent are going to be needed, in droves, to organize the large quantities of complex legal content and processes that will be need to be analyzed, distilled and then embodied in standard working practices and computer systems.

Legal knowledge engineering, in the 21st century, will not be a fringe show at the edge of the legal market.  It will be a central occupation for tomorrow’s lawyers.

Doesn’t Mr. Susskind’s 2009 essay on legal knowledge engineers sound like a specific application of Big Data in the legal services market?  Are our law schools missing an opportunity to team with their engineering departments to develop this type of specialist?  Have we even scratched the surface of thinking about the application of Big Data in the legal services area?