Canadian Lawyer

May 2023

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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10 FEATURE CROSS EXAMINED HARNESSING DATA FOR BETTER INSIGHTS Paul-Erik Veel challenges conventional wisdom in the profession by using quantitative methods to analyze legal decision-making "We are getting to the point where those types of models can be good enough to be useful complements to the reasoning that lawyers employ" WHEN PAUL-ERIK VEEL was a junior associate at Lenczner Slaght LLP, he was preparing for his first jury trial. His client was a physician defending a medical negli- gence claim. Veel told his client that attending the trial daily would be a good idea. "The jury really wants to see that you're involved and engaged," he told the doctor. His client said that even though it would disrupt his practice, he would follow Veel's advice. "I assume there are studies that show that when defendants show up to jury trials, they're more likely to win," the doctor said. Veel realized that his response highlighted a problem in the legal profession. "We don't study these things," Veel recalls telling his client. "The practice of law doesn't work that way. It's a bunch of old lawyers who have been doing something for 30 or 40 years, who say, 'This is the way we should do things.' And then the newer genera- tion just learns that collective knowledge, really without interrogating it in any kind of systematic way." His client was not impressed. "That was an unsatisfying answer for him, but also an unsatisfying answer for me," says Veel. The exchange set Veel on a path to incor- porate quantitative and empirical analysis into how he and his firm deliver legal advice. When Veel studied economics for his undergraduate degree, he became fascinated by the tools economists used to aggregate data and predict what people, companies, and markets would do. His interest in competitive debating led him to law school, but he never left his passion for data behind. While studying law, he also completed a master's in economics. After law school, Veel clerked for Louise Charron at the Supreme Court of Canada. He then joined Lenczner Slaght as an asso- ciate. Here Veel developed a commercial litigation practice focusing on class actions, competition law, complex commercial disputes, and professional liability. In 2020, he began to apply an empirical analysis he knew was missing from much legal reasoning to cases at the Competition Tribunal. Veel describes this as "the first small dataset that I had built on my own in an Excel document." Another project at the firm, a website tracking cases on the Superior Court of Justice's Commercial List, contained prac- tice-related information on the list. Veel also began working on a Supreme Court of Canada leave project, which analyzed leave decisions at the top court. Veel says a major obstacle for all these projects was convincing what he terms "quantitatively averse" lawyers that there is value in tracking this information. The "classic lawyer is not someone who has studied math or physics or any other kind of heavily quantitative discipline in their undergraduate studies," he says. "And so, what that means is, a large portion of the bar doesn't necessarily have particular quantitative literacy." Veel says it took much less convincing when speaking to clients. "Across the board, as most businesses become more data-driven, and you see clients expecting data analytics

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