Why Your Law Firm Should Become More Data Focused
I have worked as a lawyer my entire professional career. However, during undergraduate and law school I worked for a small construction company as a Construction Estimator. I had no experience when I was offered the job and my training amounted to little more than reviewing a couple sets of construction documents. During my time with this small construction company, I discovered a business that had created and integrated sophisticated data management and process systems to ensure that they remained competitive and profitable.
I was exposed to this environment of “data worship” for almost 5 years before I graduated law school and hung my shingle. Along the way, I never once heard a single law professor, or lawyer, for that matter, talk about data gathering, data management, metrics, performance indicators or analytics or preach the important of being data-focused.
In recent years, as technology has trickled down from Big Law to solo, small- and medium-sized firms, the idea of data harvesting and analyses has become slightly more popular. As practice management software becomes more affordable and more comprehensive, you likely have seen companies like GoClio and RocketMatter add features that include Campaign Trackers for premium accounts.
While the inclusion of campaign trackers in practice management software is becoming more popular, and this by all accounts is a good starting point, the real issue lies squarely with the law firms and lawyers practicing law. Traditional law firms and the way the law is taught believe that good work is enough to succeed. I firmly disagree with that! Don’t get me wrong, I think and know that doing good legal work is essential, but it definitely isn’t enough.
The development of a data-focused approach to practicing law should be considered the difference between having a job and making a living, especially taking into account that data-focused law firms can measure results, compare activities, assess performance indicators and even create metrics for testing and analysis.
So many people have heard me preach this sermon and the most common reaction to this is that data gathering, testing and analytics techniques are too confusing, expensive and time-consuming to be utilized effectively by small law firms. If that is your belief, simply go back to reading Reddit, because you are patently wrong.
First, the internet has caused a massive explosion of data analytics tools including many that are so commonplace they are often over looked, such as Google Analytics for your website. The Internet has become a verifiable treasure trove of data and tools. Between Google Analytics and the plethora of other business tools in the market place, your law firm could start thinking about what data to gather today.
My first attempt at data gathering was by far my most successful. When I began practicing personal injury law in North Carolina, I created a comprehensive Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to track statistics such as case type, case size, date of incident, date of hire, gender, race, age, address, and any other piece of information that I could reliably gather about my clients for the purpose of ensuring I knew some information about them.
As I noticed that better information meant making better decisions, we began tracking everything from number of new opportunities each week, number of consultations per week, new clients per week, number of days from hire to outcome, number of client communications per case, etc etc. All of this is done in a fairly automated manner. Literally, the results just need to be pulled down to get a snapshot of the firm’s lifeblood.
With better information came better decisions about the practice. And better decisions about the practice (while we don’t claim to have all the answers, yet) have helped us increase revenue from year to year to year. As such, there can be little argument to the value of having helpful information about your practice. I believe it to be irresponsible for any business owner to forgo analyzing their activities to determine if they are helping or hurting the bottom line.
Regardless, I plan on writing quite a bit more on this subject matter and hope to better explain why you should not trust your judgment without consulting your data due to the well-known but often forgotten problem of “confirmation bias.”
Jared Pierce hung his own shingle right out of law school and has spent every minute since then discovering the joys and difficulties of chasing success. Anyone who has ever met Jared will tell you h