Client and Matter Profiling through the Matter Lifecycle #ArkKM

Session Title and Description: Client/Matter Profiling Throughout the Matter Lifecycle

Imagine capturing context from the get-go and approaching matter intake as an opportunity to define the parameters of knowledge collection, and then building this into the workflow of every matter the firm takes on. When a new client or a new legal project comes to a firm, the priority is to create a new client and matter file in the firm’s accounting system as quickly as possible. However, establishing a record in the accounting system for billing purposes is just the beginning. Data at the client level (and related party level) and the matter level (legal project level) must be collected from the time of inception of the client/matter through the end of the engagement. It’s simply not enough to talk about what data should be collected, there needs to be a discussion about the limitations and difficulties. Where do you start, and what is a minimum feasible approach that can support the value of concept?


Chris Boyd, Senior Director of Professional Services, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati,
Chad C. Ergun, Director, Global Practice Services & Business Intelligence, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP,
Deborah S. Panella, Director of Library & Knowledge Services, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP

[These are my notes from the 2015 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Why matter profiling is important. Matter profiling facilitates better marketing, understanding client needs, pricing, selling, RFPs/pitches, identifying expertise, delivering legal services.
  • Matter profile requirements.
    • Accurate. Ideally, matter profiles are accurate. However, too often this is not reality.
    • Comprehensive
    • Consistent — using an agreed taxonomy
    • Done within routine workflow.
    • Completed as quickly as possible.
  • Challenges to matter profiling.
    • Too many cooks — every department/constituency has different reasons for participate and different expectations for the outcome. They also choose different ways of participating. At the end of the day, all they share is the belief that cooperation with matter profiling is a good thing — at least in theory!
    • Timing — too often asking lawyers for matter profiling is a timing challenge. You ask them before they know or after they care. Both yield suboptimal results. (It is very hard to interrupt attorneys in the middle of a matter to get their insights for matter profiling. The attorneys are more focused on client deadlines than internal knowledge needs.)
    • Time & Effort — participants do not always believe that they receive results that are commensurate with the time and effort involved.
    • Quality Assurance — it can be hard to standardize approaches, because the approaches are the result of differing workflows and work beliefs. For example, it can be hard for marketing and KM to agree on industry codes. And that is only one data point.
  • Capture and Consume. As much as there are challenges to capturing the necessary information, there is an equivalent challenge in displaying it in a form that is easy to consume by lawyers and law firm support functions.
    • Automate as much as possible in terms of capture and display.
    • Skim the cream off the new business in-take process — leverage that system as much as possible.
    • Consider whether there are any bits of information you can extract from legal documents as they are being developed in the course of an engagement.
    • When you capture the data, put it at the right level: should it be associated with the client or with the matter or even a sub-matter?
    • Provide an alert system to focus KM on creating even a rudimentary matter profile at the beginning of the matter.
    • Wilson Sonsini uses a document assembly tool (contract express) to help lawyers profile the matters they are working on.
    • Wilson Sonsini “pays” lawyers with billable hour credit (up to a cap) for assisting with these profiles.
    • Wilson Sonsini also provides deal profile and fee information to lawyers, to help them provide ballpark figures to clients who are inquiring about the cost of new representation.
    • Another firm creates  a closed matter questionnaire. Before providing the questionnaire to the lead attorney on the matter, they complete as much of the questionnaire as possible from other internal and external sources. Then these completed questionnaires are indexed by Recommind to serve back to the lawyers information on precedents and expertise.
    • White & Case uses their process of creating electronic closing binders to capture additional matter profile information. This work is done in their Manila office.
  • Use external resources. Sometimes it faster to receive notification of deal closings from external resources than internal resources. (Lawyers don’t always remember to report closings.)
  • Collaborate.
    • Involve marketing, legal secretaries, practice groups, the records department, etc.
  • Show the results.
    • Find ways to surface the data back to the lawyers.
    • Use the data to identify legal expertise and then mash that up with individual lawyer skills (e.g., language skills).

How does KM Factor into the Strategic Fabric of the Firm? #ArkKM

Session Description: 

Baker Donelson takes a holistic approach to firm strategic planning. In this keynote segment, attendees will hear from Jennifer Keller—Baker Donelson’s new President and COO. Taking the position in April, she is the first woman in this role and brings a unique perspective to the function of knowledge management in pursuit of the firm’s strategic goals.

Speaker:  Jennifer P. Keller, Firm President & Chief Operating Officer, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC

[These are my notes from the 2015 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • KM Development at the Firm. Baker Donelson’s KM efforts started in 2002. In 2004, they instituted “KM Dollars” (now called the venture fund — see below) to provide incentives to lawyers to participate in KM projects. In 2005, they launched their first KM strategic plan. In 2010, they moved to their second KM strategic plan. Now they are working on strategic efforts for the 2015-2019 period: KM Consultancy work, KM Technology and Product Development, and KM Department Reengineering.
  • Holistic Approach to Strategic Planning. Baker Donelson has a strategic planning body that involves departments, practice groups, KM LPM, Marketing executive management, and the Board (i.e., management committee in strategic planning. This strategic planning body studies, plans and recommends courses of action for the firm.
  • The Venture Fund. The venture fund is the way to “pay” attorneys for working on non-billable projects, including KM and other research and development projects. This fund is a “significant amount of dollars” that are put in the budget and used to compensate attorneys with billable hour credit for strategic projects that are otherwise non-billable. They have a rigorous application review process that requires each application include an approved plan. Then, when the lawyers apply for funding, their claim must be substantiated by an audit by the KM department to ensure the work done through this fund is of strategic value to the firm.
  • 5 Keys to integrating KM into the Firm.
    • Understand the psychology of the attorney of 2015. There is pre-2008 lawyer life and post-2008 lawyer life. Now lawyers are operating under greater scrutiny with respect to efficiency and value for the client.  Now the new focus is: lower cost, more profitability, productivity.
    • Have a seat at the table.  To be effective in KM, you need to understand the firm and its people. This means being at the strategic planning table, and having a foot in administrative management and practice management. If you cannot get a seat at the table, have a relentless advocate who does have a seat at the table.
    • Focus on client value. This does not mean the same thing to everyone: lower cost? Higher predictability? Better outcomes? More transparency? The definition of client value is set solely by the client. So you need to have some core agreement with your clients as to what constitutes client value to them. If you do a client survey, make sure that the KM department sees the results to that they can tailor their work accordingly.
    • Don’t forget the importance of Support Staff and Administrative Departments. Assistants are integral to the work of attorneys and their practices. These assistants can be important allies when converting lawyers to a new workflow or behavior.
    • Identify and help remove obstacles. Look at what is working. Look at what is not being used. Then ask “Why?” When you find the answers, you will be a hero. As you do this work, remember that good communication is critical. Don’t fall back on email for everything. Baker Donelson uses a great deal of one-on-one training to help people in the firm engage with KM and its efforts.
  • Have a  great KM team.



Ed Walters Keynote on Why Data Matters #ArkKM

Session Title and Description: At the Intersection of Risk & KM — Using Data to Evaluate Business Intake – and More

The entire world is changing, as industries as diverse as advertising, stock trading, medicine, and sports are using analytics to achieve maximum results, often in unexpected ways. Law is no different. Although many people think of KM as document-based, it also is one of the richest repositories of the data that can and should drive Moneyball for lawyers. In this session, Fastcase CEO and data-geek-in-chief Ed Walters will explore the frontiers of these tools in practice, from contract drafting to forum shopping, and from case valuation to legal research. The session will discuss how KM can replace hunches and anecdata with metrics and measurement for strategic advantage.

Speaker: Ed Walters, Chief Executive Officer, Fastcase

[These are my notes from the 2015 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Data is the new oil. This is a bit trite nowadays. Nonetheless, there is much to be learned from the oil industry. In particular, Walters draws some powerful lessons from  John D. Rockefeller and  his experience at the dawn of the oil industry.
    • It helps to have a head start. Take the data that is easily available to you, squeeze some value from it, and then incorporate new data sets. Rinse and repeat.
    • If you are going to make data valuable, you must integrate vertically and horizontally. The important thing is to get out of your silo!
    • Data is not valuable in its own right. It’s useful for what it enables you to do.
  • Law firm decision making. Typically, law firm decision making is based on hunches (i.e., the experience and judgment of the senior lawyers of the firm). Data rarely plays a role. This must change. Continuing to rely primarily on hunches will soon constitute malpractice.
  • Learning from Uber. Uber is a data company that provides valuable information to riders — who my driver is, what car I will get, when it will arrive, etc. All of these data points are currently missing from the very broken traditional taxi industry. So riders operate in the dark. This is frighteningly similar to law firms and their clients.
  • If data is the new oil, drill baby drill.



Collaboration Between KM and Marketing #ArkKM

Session Title and Description: KM & Marketing: True Partnership or Marriage of Convenience?

Law firm marketing departments regularly collaborate with lawyers to produce events, publications, pitch materials and more. The attorneys add context to the core functions of Marketing. Interestingly, that sounds a lot like KM’s goal of transforming information into knowledge by adding context. Is it possible that Marketing and KM have more in common than other administrative departments, and that intra-departmental collaboration can create an exponential value boost in a law firm? Our panel of Marketing and KM professionals will discuss collaborative successes as well as failures and the consequences of silo’d departments. How can KM and Marketing make CRM a success? How can business and client intelligence fuel both disciplines? Can KM and Marketing succeed at creating new product offerings? Is the elusive after-action review attainable through collaboration?


Scott Rechtschaffen, Chief Knowledge Officer, Littler Mendelson P.C.,
Laura G. Murray, Esq., Chief Marketing Officer, Bilzin Sumberg,
Brad Newman, Practice Innovation Manager, Cooley LLP

[These are my notes from the 2015 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Ways in which Marketing and KM Collaborate.
    • KM creates materials that marketing then distributes to clients and potential clients.
    • KM supports Marketing in conference planning and presentations.
    • KM and Marketing collaborate on deal data. Cooley provides data visualization tools to the public so that they can interpret this data.
    • Build databases that enable data analysis and collaboration. For example, allow Marketing and KM to share the experience database.
  • How to overcome barriers to this collaboration?
    • Marketing likes to control the message. Therefore, they are reluctant to allow lawyers to present directly to the public — especially via social media. Marketing does not control lawyer communications in the course of matters, when speaking to clients, when filing with governmental agencies, when appearing before the court. So why not trust lawyers on social media?
    • A key issue is awareness: each department may not be aware of what the other department is doing and what its priorities are. Along with awareness, the departments need to provide transparency into their processes.
    • Be willing to share credit (or assume the blame) for collaborative efforts.
  • CRM. Implementing a truly useful client relationship management system has been a challenge for many firms. At Cooley, the KM department has supported Marketing in finding better workflow and better ways to extract and analyze data lodged in Salesforce. While Marketing may know how to use a CRM well, Rechtschaffen believes that most lawyers don’t know how to use the tools. At Bilzin, KM owns the CRM system, not Marketing. This makes sense for Murray since KM is more focused on maintaining the integrity of the data. (She believes that Marketers are more on the “art” side, while KMers are more on the “science” side of this equation.) The key issue is to show the attorneys every day of the data that is in the CRM system. This motivates them to add their own data.
    • Alicia Hardy of White & Case commented that it can be divisive to have one department “own” a system. It is far better to have the firm itself “own” each system, but then involve all the relevant support functions in implementing it and enhancing it.
  • Keys to collaboration. Make sure that there is a constant discussion between KM and Marketing. Each KM attorney may be assigned to a practice group, but a marketing manager will be too. Make sure they are talking and finding ways to collaborating. Each should feed the other with new ideas. Each should provide implementation support to the other. Make sure that at the grassroots level they are interacting professionally and, even, socially. Have coffee. Have lunch.
  • Create infrastructure. At Littler, they assign a marketing professional to every KM initiative. This ensures that both departments create awareness and transparency. It also creates important relationships that make the work better.



Advice from an Iraq Vet to KM Professionals

person-question-1158128-1280x1280Erik Booker could be a middle school student’s nightmare. In his current job, he is a seventh-grade teacher in South Carolina. Before becoming a teacher, however, he was a US Army intelligence officer in Iraq. That experience taught him to read body language and to know when someone it not being entirely truthful.

Now do you see his potential to scare a seventh-grade student?

In the course of a moving Storycorps interview conducted by his former student, Jenna Power, Booker offers the following advice to his student:

Be brave. Now let’s face it, there are some students who sit in my class and they do what I tell them to do. But you were never satisfied with that. You always said, ‘But wait…’ That was my favorite phrase from you: ‘But wait…’

I want you to ask those questions. ‘Why is it that way? Why do we do things that way?’ To me, that is what sets people apart — that desire to know more.

As I heard this interview, I mentally swapped out some of his words to fit another scenario we know too well:

Now let’s face it, there are some KM professionals who sit in a law firm and they do what the partners tell them to do. But you were never satisfied with that. You always said, ‘But wait…’ That was my favorite phrase from you: ‘But wait…’

I want you to ask those questions. ‘Why is it that way? Why do we do things that way?’ To me, that is what sets KM professionals apart — that desire to know more.

By changing just a handful of words, a seventh-grade phenomenon became a very familiar law firm KM phenomenon. While the partners of your firm may be well-intentioned, it is still your job to ask the follow-up questions. It is still your job to ensure that you have identified the root cause and are addressing it rather than the symptoms of a problem. After all, KM is your area of expertise, not theirs.

As you work this week to advance knowledge management inside a law firm, remember Erik Booker’s advice. Keep asking yourself and your colleagues: “Why is it that way? Why do we do things that way?” And don’t settle for the obvious answers.

If you are attending the Ark Conference on Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession this week, ask these questions of the presenters, vendors, and other attendees. And, once again, don’t settle for the obvious answers.

It is in asking and answering these questions that we open up a window on our hidebound practices and out-of-date thinking. It is in asking and answering these questions that we create the opportunity for insight and innovation.

So take the advice of this Iraq vet. It is how you will set yourself and your KM effort apart from the others.

[Photo Credit: Sigurd Decroos]


After Ark: Notes from the Legal KM Conference

ark-logoAs I discovered at last week’s Ark Legal KM Conference, one of the benefits of being a conference co-chair is that you have an opportunity to provide some closing remarks. Eager to take advantage of this opportunity, I prepared my remarks and a slide deck before the conference started. However, by the end of the first day of the conference it was clear to me that I would have to toss my materials and start over again. Why? Because the speakers took the conversation into some new areas that I had not heard discussed at recent Ark conferences.

How nice to be surprised!

Among the themes that emerged during the conference were the importance of trust, strategy, knowledge flows and alliances:

  • Trust. According to psychologist Robert Plutchik, trust is one of the eight primary emotions. As Bruna Martinuzzi points out, it may be the most fragile of the emotions: Trust is “difficult to establish, hard to maintain and easy to break.” The challenge for knowledge management personnel is that without trust there can be little effective knowledge sharing. Yet how many of us intentionally focus our efforts on establishing and preserving trust?
  • Strategy. As I discovered in the course of my research for Optimizing Law Firm Support Functions, having a strategy is critical if you wish to optimize your KM department. While any number of activities may be worthy, they won’t be ultimately worthwhile unless they serve your firm’s business strategy.  Interestingly, while many of the KM personnel attending the conference said that their firms had a business strategy and that their KM program was aligned with that strategy, virtually no one in the room was willing to claim that they used metrics to track their progress against strategic goals. Do we have a fundamental problem?
  • Knowledge Stocks versus Knowledge Flows. Traditionally, law firm KM has focused on building up sizeable knowledge stocks: inventories of model documents, practice guides, clause libraries, etc. To be honest, far too many lawyers believe it is the role of law firm KM to create these knowledge stocks and then make them accessible via the firm’s intranet. During the conference, however, we talked about the value of switching focus from knowledge stocks to knowledge flows. This switch would mean shifting from capturing, organizing and classifying knowledge into databases, collections and websites, to sharing knowledge by convening and facilitating conversations. If we’re agreed that the firm’s most valuable and elusive knowledge is its tacit knowledge, then why are some of us spending the bulk of our time on stocks of explicit knowledge?
  • Administrative Alliances. Lori Reese Patton (Chief Learning Officer) and Bill Turner (Chief Knowledge Officer) of Womble Carlyle showed the conference attendees an inspiring example of how much more can be accomplished when heads of administrative departments reach across departmental boundaries and silos to create alliances for the benefit of the firm. In a time of reduced budgets and smaller staff, strategic administrative alliances can expand a KM department’s opportunities, resources and impact.

This is just one of my snapshots of the conference. Each attendee of the conference undoubtedly has their own snapshots of memorable moments and lessons from the presentations. I hope the conversations begun at the Ark conference continue. There is much for all of us to learn together.


Henderson: Special Change Management Problems Confronted by Law Firms #ArkKM

William D. Henderson is a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law; Director, Center on the Global Legal Profession.

[These are my notes from the 2013 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • What’s Wrong With Law Schools? In the current approach to legal education, professors have an amazing amount of autonomy to create and deliver their courses. The result too often is law students with uneven educations who may lack the necessary problem-solving and collaboration skills. (There are some obvious parallels to how law firm partners operate.)
  • Change Management Basics.Change often doesn’t come about until people believe that they are standing on a burning platform and, therefore, they must take action. Interestingly, Henderson’s poll of the audience indicated that only one firm present believed that their platform was burning. [Only one!!!] As for the rest of the firms represented, they were willing to admit that perhaps their platform had caught fire. Without a sense of urgency, how can there be a drive for change?
  • Why do we lack Urgency? (1) There has been too much prosperity for too much time. (2) Law firms noticed that clients were willing to pay for senior talent. So law firms have beefed up their senior ranks and stripped their junior ranks. Henderson calls this leveraging older talent. However, this is not sustainable over the long-term. To begin with, older lawyers are a finite resource. Further, while firms pursue this strategy, they deprive themselves of a deep bench. Worse still, while this strategy is in place, law firms give themselves too much time to make a lot of dumb business decisions.



Bruce MacEwen: Growth is Dead, Now What? #ArkKM

Bruce MacEwen is president of Adam Smith, Esq. LLC and president, JD Match. Bruce is an influential blogger at Adam Smith Esq. and author of Growth is Dead.

[These are my notes from the 2013 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Excess Capacity. There is a an excess supply of law school graduates. There simply are not enough jobs for them. The national average is approximately a 2:1 ratio of new JDs to jobs. A recent NALP survey shows that summer associate programs are 51% lower now than 10 years ago. Citibank estimates that the firms that bank with them have about 6% excess capacity.
  • Impact of 2008 Recession. When you have a recession driven by a credit crisis, it takes much longer to recover. GDP per capita declines by 10%. (Compare this to the bubble recession, which was an equity-driven recession.)
  • Law Firm Pricing. Law firms are following the path of other desperate industries. They engage in suicidal pricing (depressing prices to the point that they no longer make money). For examples, see the department store industry, the airlines industry, the automotive industry.
  • Empowered Clients. Clients are finally waking up to the fact that they can make choices when it comes to their law firms. Sometimes this means moving to lower cost firms. Sometimes it means handling matters internally for much longer. Sometimes it means disaggregating services so they source services from a variety of providers who offer more favorable pricing. The law firm can no longer depend on a steady stream of business.
  • Advice to Managing Partners. (1) Focus on Innovation. This means you need to create a culture that allows you to produce a lot of ideas. Most will fail, but some will work. Set aside 20 hours of revenue annually for a research and development budget. (2) Focus on Firm Management. Get lawyers out of the business of managing law firms. Instead, bring in management professionals. And, while you’re at it, banish the term “non-lawyer”!

Size Matters: An Introduction to Big Data

“We’re here to tell you that size matters.”

This is how we began a presentation today on Big Data. I had the pleasure of presenting with Maura R. Grossman, Counsel at Wachtell Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and Chad C. Ergun, Director, Global Practice Services & Business Intelligence, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

[These are my notes from the 2012 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those.]


  • What are the Hallmarks of Big Data? Some refer to the three “Vs” while others refer to the five “Vs.” All are agreed that Big Data has the attributes of huge Volume, Velocity and Variety. In addition, some would add issues of determining the Veracity and Value of the data.
  • What’s the Big Challenge of Big Data? We’ve been spoiled over the last few years — deluded into thinking that we can capture useful data, cram them into spreadsheets and then analyze them at our leisure. However, as data grow, that approach becomes increasingly unviable. According to the IDC, less than 10% of Big Data is structured data. That leaves over 90% that is unstructured content such as social media streams (e.g., Facebook, Twitter), video and images, mobile data (e.g., GPS), text messages, emails, documents, IT and operational data, transactional data, search engine data and sensor data. Our simple little spreadsheets can’t begin to handle this variety of data, much less make sense of it. Further, we can’t manually populate and analyze these spreadsheets quickly enough to keep us with the high speed at which the data are created.
  • Why Bother with Big Data? A recent McKinsey Global Institute study identified Big Data as the “Next Frontier.” Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson of MIT say in Big Data: The Management Revolution that Big Data can measurably improve productivity and profitability:

Companies that inject big data and analytics into their operations show productivity rates and profitability that are 5% to 6% higher than those of their peers.

  • Our Clients are Interested in Big Data Client interest and activity in the Big Data arena is growing. You can find many examples of how organizations are using the new insights that come from Big Data analysis: (1) Walmart analyzes 267 million transaction per day in order to stock its shelves more appropriately and profitably; (2) Google tracks flu trends based on search queries relating to flu symptoms; (3) medical scientists are uncovering the genetic and environmental causes of disease; (4) thousands of sensors provide data that helps scientists under the environment and changes in weather; (5) real-time analysis by computers of video feeds helps fight crime.
  • What are the Law Firm Opportunities and Concerns? The most obvious way to use Big Data analysis is in competitive intelligence research. Another possibility on the horizon is to use Big Data analytics to help us understand better the staffing, pricing and profitability of matters. Ideally, this would be done by searching all the unstructured and structured content within the firm to find the patterns. Another opportunity is in eDiscovery. The problem is that while it may be cheap to store data, it’s is still expensive to conduct an eDiscovery review of that data using current methods and technology.
  • Mashup Magic. Starting with the provocative question “What decisions could we make if we had all the information we needed?” the audience brainstormed to create a list of new data mashups that could solve law firm business problems. Among the suggestions were: (1) analyzing unstructured content to help uncover possible client conflicts; (2) analyzing emails to identify trending topics; (3) analyzing financial data filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to find early warning signs of financial distress (or even bankruptcy) of current or potential clients; (4) comparing government economic data with initial public offering pricing data; (5) recording, indexing and analyzing phone calls to find opportunities for cross-selling; (6) comparing pitch document contents to pitch success rates; (7) comparing the content of pleadings with matter success rates; (8) comparing weather data with sales data in your law firm cafeteria.
  • What’s the Future of Big Data? For those of you who thought Big Data was a passing fad or a science fiction fantasy, think again. Surveys of senior business leaders indicate that Big Data is one of their primary strategic concerns. In fact, a recent McKinsey survey found that 60% of the CEOs and CIOs contacted believe their companies should use Big Data analytics to generate insights regarding customer preferences. Meanwhile, spending for Big Data is set to rise:

Big data will drive $28 billion of worldwide IT spending in 2012, according to Gartner, Inc. In 2013, big data is forecast to drive $34 billion of IT spending.

  • Final Thoughts.  Used creatively and thoughtfully, Big Data can provide important insights into your firm’s operations and business environment. Our clients are embracing Big Data. Can law firms afford not to?
  • ***********************

    For additional notes on this session, see David Hobbie’s blog post.


    Matter Management, Pricing and Profitability

    The speakers are Gene Berger (Manager of Financial Planning & Analysis, Dechert), David B. Hobbie (Litigation Knowledge Manager, Goodwin Procter) and Richard B. Friedman (Partner, McKenna Long & Aldridge).

    [These are my notes from the 2012 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


    • How Well-Established is their Alternative Pricing Effort? Even with strong senior support, it is an ongoing effort to bring partners around to the concept of alternative fee arrangements. There are pockets of high activity and other pockets in which AFAs are not even on the radar screen.
    • What was most surprising when they started? There were no legacy data to track client satisfaction and repeat business. From a business planning perspective, one panelist didn’t have the legacy data necessary to determine where future business development (including cross-selling) should occur. One firm had to start with basic matter coding (phase/task coding). David Hobbie noted that there were several different types of data that can be useful and you may already be tracking it. For example, they had a robust matter tracking system that proved very helpful for pricing analysis. They have had to augment this with some manual data mining.
    • Where do they start? At Dechert, they build “shells” that have the basic pricing model based on historical data. Each shell includes the following attributes: legal service line, staffing models, matter attributes (size, complexity, location, etc.). They provide this to the partner to fine-tune. Then they track actuals against budget and complete their forecasting o the basis of the budgets. Goodwin purchased Randy Steere’s budgeting tool, which is handled by administrative staff. Lawyers are given simple Excel spreadsheets into which they insert the requested data.
    • How do you track progress? At McKenna Long, they have a portfolio representation (patent prosecution) on a fixed fee basis. They have a collar arragement in place whereby they track the hourly charges. If those charges are within 10% of the agreed fee, then they will charge the actual fee. If the hourly charges are more than 10% above or below the agreed fee, the next year’s fee will be the actual fee minus the agreed fee, divided by two. In order to manage this, they track charges on a monthly basis and have a monthly conference call with the client to see how things are going. This is a method of risk-sharing with the client.
    • How to avoid going over budget? At Dechert, the partners have dashboards that report matter financial data that are updated daily. In addition, they check monthly to see if there are any unforeseen things that have occurred or are likely to occur and need to be addressed. At ReedSmith, they track the variances weekly and then have a 5-10 minute meeting with the responsible partner to discuss these differences and determine if they need to make a course correction in the way the matter is being handled or in the way the client is paying. Do this midstream. Don’t wait until the end of the month or the end of the matter.
    • What non-obvious things should we be tracking? David Hobbie says it’s important to start by asking the lawyers on the matter, what’s driving the cost. With respect to coding, Richard Friedman says to be careful not to include a “general” or “catch-all” code such as “other” because they obscure the necessary detail. This also means that you need the right number of codes that reflect your practice accurately. What’s the best way to validate codes? Do some systematic spot-checking to review the coding and then discuss differences with the partner responsible for the matter.