10 Ways for Law Firms to Use Big Data

Law firms are starting to hire analytics specialists to help them harness the valuable insights that big data can deliver for their company; primarily across the financial and business development departments.

Legal Data

Here are ten crucial areas that where firms can start utilising big data today in order to make positive changes to their business performance and results:


1 – Use predictive analytics to track and respond to consumer behaviour.

Whether your target client is an enterprise business or an individual, there is often a wealth of information available online to help build a picture of your customer and their associated legal needs.  Having a plan in place to track consumer behaviour, through social media, news feeds and client interactions, means you can start to predict outcomes based on historical data and learnings.  Once you have a more accurate picture of what ‘ideal’ consumer behaviour looks like, then you can start to apply that blueprint to other target customers to find prospects who fit the bill perfectly for your services.


2 – Make more accurate judgements on cases before they start.

Rather than relying on previous experience and intuition alone when deciding to take on a case, bringing a wider range of analytics into the fold when conducting early case assessments can ensure your chances of choosing the most successful cases are higher.  Combining existing financial data with analytics info showing trends based on customer profile or previous engagement can help to either bolster your decisions or provide a new perspective previously not considered.  Being able to do this analytics piece electronically via a business intelligence tool rather than manually reduces the time and costs associated with early case assessment work.


3 – Spot correlations between client behaviours to alert you to potential issues.

Apparently, vegetarians miss fewer flights than their meat-eating counterparts.  Would it then be less risky to bet on a vegetarian catching their flight than a carnivore?  Who knows… However, what we do know is that there is usually a range of behaviours that lead up to a final action taking place, and your ability to harness data to spot these trends could avert potential issues.  For instance, if every time you lose a major client there are a number of factors that tend to occur, such as; call waiting times to your teams increasing, the client repeatedly rearranging an important meeting or your company’s satisfaction survey experiencing a drop in ratings of over 10%, then early awareness of these activities could help you to prevent another major client leaving if you spot the pattern in time.


4 – Improving e-discovery activities.

Data analytics can help to provide more insight around e-discovery activities by not only analysing documents, but the text and metadata around those documents too.  Maybe the document itself isn’t of importance, but the number of revisions or the frequency at which the document was emailed out become important.  Without sophisticated analytics, these trends would be difficult to spot if a human were reviewing masses of electronic documentation themselves.  Sometimes the correlation between trends that leads to a discovery isn’t visible when conducting the search – the insight is only apparent after the data has been collected and layered against other data streams.


5 – Increase profitability across your firm.

Most firms know what their revenue position is and are fully aware of how their expense policy is being used.  However are they able to layer that information over less obvious data about how the firm operates (as a whole and at an individual level) to draw insight about profitability?  For instance, how do costs change in winter compared with summer?  Do your partners tend to take more taxis in winter but opt for walking or the tube in summer?  Do expenses jump when working with an enterprise client rather than an SMB client even though the revenue generated from each case is identical? Are you able to understand how profitability is affected by a client’s characteristics or demographics (i.e. is profitability affected if the client is based in the South or the North) from multiple perspectives?


6 – Increase productivity by understanding lawyer behaviour.

Understanding your clients is one thing.  But do you understand the workings of your lawyers?  Do you know which tasks lawyers spend the majority of their days performing – and how much time is spent face to face with clients?

Analytics can be a great way to obtain visibility of what tasks staff are spending their time on, and what those tasks cost based on the employee’s role versus the amount of revenue that is generated from that particular activity.  Maybe your partners spend time reviewing financial performance reports when in fact it would be cheaper to employ a reporting specialist to collate important data into one sheet to reduce time spent on the task, or that partners may be more productive when working at a client site than in your firm’s offices.

Understanding the impact of multiple different factors such as location, task type or client profile on lawyer productivity can lead to the business changing how they operate or what responsibilities each job role has, in order to make individuals more productive in their core roles.


7 – Know where you win customers from.

Firms sometimes have a mature CRM system or may manage their client list through spreadsheets – however as consumers interact with vendors through an omni-channel approach, it can be increasingly difficult for firms to understand how they won a client in the first place.

Analytics helps to marry up the entire customer experience journey, by combining web analytics with incoming call data with face to face meetings with email marketing etc.

Having a good awareness of how your clients find and select you helps with better targeting for future business development campaigns.


8 – Understand what campaigns are successful, and why and when.

Having reporting data about which marketing campaigns have been successful is fairly easy to come by.  Mailchimp offers great, free reporting on who has opened your e-newsletter and who has unsubscribed from your messages.

However, do particular campaigns perform better at different times, and are you capturing that wider information?

Are you more successful when sending out printed marketing collateral to technology companies compared with healthcare institutions?  Does email marketing resonate more with digital agencies or does social media attract them more?

By collecting as much data about who you are targeting, the business situation around the marketing campaign and the individual steps taken within the campaign, you can start to spot correlations between what factors work and what doesn’t, in order to become highly targeted and specialised in your approach.

Many law firms are now blogging and sharing insights online; but without data, how do firms know if their blogging is paying off as direct leads are unlikely to come from the blog alone but more as a result of another outbound marketing campaign in addition to reviewing the blog and website for further information.


9 – Use data to simplify data.

One of the main issues with data is that there is too much of it.  It’s usually in incomprehensible formats and the file types can be difficult to work with.

Many analytics tool can simplify the data from a mass (or mess) of information down to visual and simple insights that can be easily digested.  This increases the adoption of data across the organisation, with non-specialists able to understand and review data in order to base their decisions and activities.

A law firm we recently worked with reduced their management reporting file from 20 pages down to just one page, meaning that Managing Partners can now get a high level overview of the key metrics each day without filtering through reams of unrequired info.

Make it easy for your users to interact with data so that they see the value in collecting and inputting data back into the systems, to help with generating further insights.


10 – Make data go beyond the firm to clients.

Firms are now starting to extend data visibility out to their clients; providing real-time reporting to customers on-demand, via web portals or log-ins, without a solicitor or lawyer having to be involved in sending out updates or info to clients.

Performance against individual client KPIs is also a useful resource that could be extended out to clients, along with billing and case information.

This ability to access data when they want also has the added benefit of reducing the time clients spend getting in touch with your firm and therefore increases customer satisfaction levels.  For instance, having real-time billing information on a secure portal that the client can log into means they don’t have to call your firm up to check the billing position, reducing time on the client’s side and resources on your side.  Or if a client is awaiting info on an important decision, their portal can be updated as soon as the info is available, rather than waiting for their associated legal representative to find the time to call them and update them.



As you can see, data can be used for collating and simplifying financial and operational data, but also for supporting business generation activities and for analysing the results of marketing campaigns.  The end result is that the actions of the business become more deliberate; backed up by data and statistics rather than just experience and personal preference.



Image provided courtesy of NEC.


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