Data may be neutral, but interpretation of it is never

Legal managers need to appreciate the gap between numbers and interpretation of those numbers.   Stated differently, contrary to the chestnut “the numbers speak for themselves”, a babble of conclusions can be reached from any set of numeric data.

A charming anecdote from the NY Times, Nov. 4, 2016 at B4, captures the multiple voices of numbers due to the subjectivity of inference.  According to the Times, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has an unofficial motto for when they are asked about their employment data.  They don’t indulge in drawing conclusions as to whether the employment glass is half full or half empty:  they respond, “It’s an eight-ounce glass with four ounces of liquid.”

In a different legal context and drawing on the wisdom of TV, “Just the facts, ma’am” – leave the interpretation to us.

Data scientists can presumably measure the glass and the amount of liquid in it, but managers in law firms and departments must come to their own conclusions about fullness.

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