Connecting hearts and minds in your law firm's data strategy

By Yves Faguy Web Only

Connecting hearts and minds in your law firm's data strategy


Scott Mozarsky of Bloomberg BNA shares his views on big data and analytics disrupting the legal sector in a recent Forbes interview.  Here he discusses how data helps guide GCs in retaining external firms:

Selecting and retaining outside counsel used to be a lot more about art than science. Pre-existing relationships and referrals often drove decisions regarding representation by outside counsel. Data and technology have changed the selection process and made it much more scientific. Analytical tools allow clients to see which firms have represented clients in different jurisdictions and in front of different judges as well as the type of transactions and cases they have worked on.

As a general counsel, when my company was sued in a jurisdiction outside of the norm or if we were working on a deal involving a unique type of target or state or local law issues, I would call my contacts and ask for referrals. Now, in a matter of minutes, I can figure out the two or three most experienced choices to fit my fact pattern. Also, with significant budget pressure on in-house teams, transparency driven by data and technology often enable outside counsel to save fees by identifying experienced and effective outside counsel from mid-sized firms or from firms that are not based in large cities.

Indeed, law is becoming digitized, Mark Cohen writes, though law firms have so far failed in keeping up with the dramatic changes occurring in the marketplace:

They are seemingly tone deaf to client gripes about cost, inefficiency, poor customer experience, and a failure to understand their business. Not only is the volume of migrated work from firms increasing, but it is also becoming increasingly complex. Consider, for example, the five- year managed contract services deal that pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson recently inked with service provider Axiom to support its global procurement contracting function. Axiom will help J&J to standardize its vast trove of procurement agreements across a dozen contract types and 10 languages. Axiom is not a law firm--it is a legal service provider. This huge, global project underscores the oft-time false distinction between the two. 

So the pressure is on law firms to develop their own data programs with a view to pricing their own services more competitively. But Matthew Fawcett identifies a key challenge for law firms intent becoming data-based organizations — winning hearts as much as minds:

Remember, change goes through people. I worry that many managers get a false sense of certainty from data, which can lead to making extreme decisions. Data is simply a means to an end – a way for us to understand our business better so that we can improve over time. Ultimately, however, all change and growth needs to go through people. And if you just hit people over the head with metrics you may discourage the exact behavior you want to achieve. I want everyone in my organization to have access to the data, to understand what we are measuring and why. I also want them to understand that the data is not meant shi ne a spotlight on specific individuals but rather to help us get better collectively.

The lesson: emotion and data are closely tied together. Yes, data is essential for measuring and managing complexity, but far from being the emotionless asset that drives you through highly charged decisions, data can evoke deep passion and foment strong disagreements that may even damage relationships.



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