I am a “statistician wannabe.” We now live in a world that amasses data at a rate so far beyond all prior human history that the scale in impossible to take in. According to Wikipedia, the world’s effective capacity to exchange information through two-way telecommunication networks was 281 petabytes of information in 1986 vs. 65,000 petabytes in 2007. This is apparently the informational equivalent to every person exchanging 6 newspapers per day.
But there is only so much time in a day and lawyer work consumes a lot of it. So my fascination with data collection and data analysis remains a superficial interest never to be a deep understanding or capability. This does not stop me, from time to time, from taking an on-line course (never finished) on statistics, or reading on statistics, or adopting the jargon. “Noise,” in statistics, is defined as “the unexplained variation or randomness that is found within a given data sample or formula.”
Take, for example, that the Minnesota Lawyer published an article by Patrick Thornton on August 30, 2013 (subscription required) that the St. Paul plaintiff’s-side legal malpractice law firm of O’Neill & Murphy was itself sued for legal malpractice for forgetting, apparently, the most important deadline in a legal malpractice lawsuit in Minnesota: the so-called 180-day Affidavit of Expert Identification and, three days later, Patrick H. O’Neill, Jr., the O’Neill of O’Neill & Murphy, moved over to the law firm of Larson King.
We will never be in a position to know whether these two pieces of information correlate in any way. But the human mind tends to abhor uncertainty, happenstance, or randomness. The mind often tends to impose causal relationships or correlations even where it is wrong. It is difficult to hold two pieces of information in mind that seem related — if only temporally or otherwise superficially – and keep in mind that, as far as we know, that is all there is, a random closeness in time.