Lisa J. Damon is a member of Seyfarth Shaw’s Executive Committee.
[These are my notes from the 2013 Ark Group Conference: Business Intelligence and Analytics 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.]
- LEAN. Lean is “a way to think” at Seyfarth. They use it for their high-end work and in their commodity work. They use it to increase efficiency and quality so they can charge less while delivering more.
- Data is Ridiculously Powerful! The challenge for lawyers and law firms is to understand the value and power of data. This will require moving beyond their natural discomfort with numbers and discomfort with messy data. Perfect data are hard to find. To do this, they should start with the data they have. For example, look at billing data — your clients are. Each law firm should know at least as much about its billing as its clients know.
- Business Analytics Are a Framework for Innovation. Use the data to change what you are doing and how you work. Use the business analytics not simply to understand the past, but to design the future.
- Case Study: The Conflicts Process. They started by focusing on a universal pain point — the conflicts process. They used it as a pilot project for their Lean Six Sigma initiative. The problem was that the conflicts process was slow. “Solution jumping” suggested that the firm simply hire more conflicts researchers. However, data revealed how long it took to move through each step of the conflicts process. Further, the data revealed that the slowest part of the process didn’t involved the conflicts researchers. Rather, it was the attorneys who were slowing down the process. This was a great example of using data to avoid solution jumping and to focus on the root cause of the problem. Next, they continued to collect monitoring data to show how the new and improved process was working.
- Case Study: Using Business Analytics on Cycle Time. In this case, the client was concerned that they were spending too much time and money on low-value, high-volume work. They asked Seyfarth to find a way to improve this situation. Seyfarth started by collecting data to understand better what was going on. They learned that a lot of time was spent by the client trying to determine which firm should handle the work. (There was low-risk work that could be sent to an outsourcer. Medium-risk work went to a specific person. High-risk went to a panel of firms, including Seyfarth.) The data suggested that if they could triage the matters (e.g., what kinds of work is involved and which law firm should support each type of work), then the client could assign matters to the appropriate law firms, which then reduced the cycle time.
- Case Study: Using Business Analytics to Drive Financial Performance. The client wanted to lower costs and increase recovery in connection with a specific type of litigation matter. Seyfarth established a base data set (e.g., how long was the case, what was the recovery, what fees were paid?). What were the variables that affected legal fees and recovery? Their study identified key correlations that helped them understand what affected recovery and costs. For example, did a specific delay result in a reduction in recovery? Since the correlation was clear, Seyfarth designed a workflow whereby the client was able to reduce that delay.
- Case Study: Using Business Analytics to Measure Firm Performance. At the behest of their client, Wolverine, Seyfarth had to demonstrate greater efficiency and effectiveness, while reducing costs. They monitored their processes (and sub-processes),collected data, and then used that data to change their processes to meet the client goals regarding efficiency, efficacy and cost. Part of the extra challenge was that in addition to improving Seyfarth’s processes, they had to help the client improve its processes. To do this, Seyfarth used the data to see what the sticking point was and then created an iPad app to help the in-house lawyers make the key decisions more quickly so that entire cycle time was reduced.
- Conclusions. Treat the clients as “true north.” Let them guide you to what matters. Use that data to improve your efficiency and quality, while reducing your risk — and the clients risk. Data can change behavior within your firm, make sure you use it to bring about the right behaviors.
I love the story of the litigation matter where the analysis included the client recovery. I like it partly because the firm is truly stepping into the shoes of the client / GC to consider what the total cost of the litigation is. Also, in this one example Seyfarth’s team is employing skills beyond those normally leveraged by firms, not limited to data mining, statistical & data analysis, process improvement, and client-directed change management.