Real-time insights can drive business development — if leveraged well.
This article aligns with the focus of the July/August issue of Strategies magazine: technology.
“It is when you combine rich data and thoughtful people that accurate and fully developed information emerges.”
That’s a quote from Meredith Slawe, partner at Akin Gump. Slawe and a variety of law firm data experts came together for the Ark Group Business Intelligence & Analytics in the Legal Profession Conference, held in New York City on April 26, 2018. Carl Sussman, commercial director at Bloomberg Law, moderated a panel to discuss the use of data in driving business development, and this article for Strategies+ features the same questions Sussman asked during the panel. The panelists, who included Slawe, Michelle Murray (director of marketing and communications at Cahill), Luke Ferrandino (chief marketing officer at Paul, Weiss) and Mike Mellor (director of marketing and business development at Pryor Cashman), came together after the panel to flesh out their initial thoughts.
Carl Sussman (CS): Tell us about the various types of data and analytics in the legal marketplace today.
Mellor: I think in order to understand the full scope, you really need to delineate what we’ve got, what most everyone is doing. For the purposes of this discussion, I’d like to break them into three categories that I will simply call individual data, industry data and internal data. Some of the real game changers are integrating all these data sets and putting an artificial intelligence (AI) lens over them to help predict future patterns, but for the sake of this conversation, I think we should focus on the three sets — without the AI component.
Individual data is the data you collect from your Google Analytics, your landing pages, your email campaigns and cookies. They can help you to identify performance and SEO, influence your content strategy and how you “go-to-market,” and give you unique reporting on what those actual people are doing.
The next type is the industry data sets. That’s everything from Bloomberg Law and Thomson Reuters and Premonition to Debtwire and some others. These are used to help us identify and target groups of folks. We’ve undertaken a number of initiatives to use data to gain new clients in Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), biotech and bankruptcy, among others. The most successful firms are using industry data to swim upstream — to take the data points provided to competitors and put their own spin on it to perhaps beat others to the punch. We’ve developed formulas to create metrics before the Bloomberg alerts hit by tweaking z-scores, and have tried some other cool ideas in this regard, like using large universes and adding human insight to gain a competitive advantage over others using the same products.
Finally, there is the internal data. This is using billing/timekeeper/client lifecycle research to identify correlations with existing clients that could yield insights for future clients. This is another area that is ripe for AI/predictive in the next 10 years, and is a big part of my future plans given our culture and how clients come into our firm.
Slawe: I use different types of data regularly in connection with my litigation practice. I focus on the defense of consumer class actions, and I advise businesses on related compliance issues. It’s critically important to keep a close eye on the activities in this space given the dynamic legal landscape and the emergence of clear consumer litigation trends.
I use various tools and alerts (e.g., through Bloomberg Law) to monitor new filings, flag substantive rulings in key cases, track positions taken by my adversaries in their other cases, and keep apprised of regulatory developments that may have implications with respect to consumer class actions. I use data to assess class action trends that I share with clients. When a new complaint is filed against my client, I promptly delve into the plaintiff’s background through publicly available sources; it’s amazing how much information one can glean from a simple internet search that can devastate a claim. I also work with my team to develop and track budgets and to develop metrics against which we can evaluate and improve upon efficiencies.
CS: What are some best practices you have put in place?
Ferrandino: While I was the global director of business development at Fried Frank (July 2016-June 2018), we increased our research function by 200 percent over a two-year period, primarily to focus on data integration and to implement a metrics/data-oriented approach to business development. We had assigned a dedicated team member to take the lead on sourcing leads in our transactional practice, and he worked closely with the firm's BD team to find opportunities for easy touch points with clients and target clients based on market rumors and alerts that we had set up to monitor company financial performance and changes in corporate governance structure. The approach had become very process oriented and routine.
Fried Frank also tracks all of these efforts and regularly reports on successes versus aggregate opportunities. The combination of additional in-house resources with the advancements in technology and other tools to collect data has really changed the landscape in this area and positions marketing teams to play an even bigger role in sourcing opportunities for lawyers.
Murray: We are using these tools to better understand Cahill’s position in the market as well as to find new opportunities with existing clients. Like many firms, my team provides client dossiers to the lawyers to prepare them for meetings. We are using the alert tools and dashboards provided by Bloomberg Law, Thomson Reuters Monitor Suite and other CI providers to give the lawyers real-time updates on their clients. Understanding what types of deals are being done, from the structure to the industry, provides our lawyers valuable intel when speaking with their clients and prospects.
Mellor: From the individual data level, we have set up automated reporting for key targets in order to see their activity within the buying cycle and what they are reading. We are looking to aggregate that with our MONDAQ data as well.
From an external data level, we have set up processes for a few different practices so we are bringing activities of interest to current and prospective clients. We are tweaking our systems to get ahead of the standard information dissemination.
We are doing the same with our internal data, and are looking for technologies, like Intapp and others, that can help augment and flag oppys for us, notably as it pertains to originator and timekeeper data. There’s a lot of low hanging fruit there, but you need to be adamant about the process.
CS: What are some of the trends you’re seeing?
Murray: One new trend used by DLA is the use of AI to examine client relationships. Another trend that continues to gain steam is the implementation of experience databases as a resource for everything from the directories submissions to RFP responses and pitch production.
Ferrandino: We are also seeing the trends that Michelle described. In particular, the predictive analytics model that DLA rolled out (2018 LMA Your Honor Awards Best in Show winner) is fascinating to me. I think it’s the future of how law firms will better leverage their data to protect, expand and provide value to their client relationships.
In addition, I believe many firms are finding ways to connect their various systems and create a master data warehouse that can provide for more granular and sophisticated analysis on everything — from client development ROI, matter management, budgeting, lead generation, client retention and growth strategies, staffing, pricing and more. This requires real attention to the quality of the data, how it is being captured in the various systems and how it is fed back and forth among systems. Then, firms need to set up feeds from accounting, marketing, CRM, human resources, knowledge management tools and external resources. For most firms, this is a big challenge that requires close collaboration among lawyers and administrative staff, but the opportunities are incredible.
CS: What are some of the drawbacks and pitfalls with data these days?
Slawe: Data viewed in isolation can be misleading or lacking of important context. We have access to an extraordinary amount of information these days, and I have been truly blown away by what can be achieved through analytics and machine learning. Technology has allowed us to zero in on information at the most granular levels. That said, the perspectives of the folks closest to this information remain quite important; they are often necessary to paint a full and complete picture.
I am all for robust data, but to maximize its effectiveness, I think it is best paired with the knowledge and insights of lawyers, marketing and business development personnel, and/or financial managers. It is when you combine rich data and thoughtful people that accurate and fully developed information emerges.
Mellor: I agree. I think when you have some of these tools, you can tend to view them in a bubble without a wider context behind the scene. For example, we were talking about the use of win rates as they pertain to judges. If someone sues someone for $100 million and gets $1 million, who wins? Or if 75 percent of your real estate leasing clients end up using you for corporate work within two years, should you immediately act on this data? What’s the lifecycle of each client? What else do they have in common? What might you be missing?
There’s so much nuance in law and, more importantly, in data science, that you have to respect. Making decisions based on data that exists “in a vacuum” is a grave mistake. You don’t get too many chances with initiatives, so pilot everything and test hypotheses to ensure success.
Murray: Different CI providers give you varying, and sometimes contradicting, pieces of the information, which you then have to spend more time digesting and determining what to use or whether to merge it all. Also of note, while we all have automated these resources to produce alerts and reports, you still need to commit human capital to these tools to maximize the return — and that is at a premium everywhere.
Ferrandino: The major challenges from my perspective relate to implementing new tools so that they are as useful as they are advertised. It is one thing to have access to a new technology that allows for better information and faster delivery of that information, but it is another to develop the processes and routines such that it is truly useful on a regular basis.
The other challenge is that there are so many new tools that are popping up every day. Finding the right one that fits your need can be overwhelming given the options.
The last challenge is firm buy-in for these efforts. Firm leaders have to recognize the value so that marketing and other administrative teams can experiment with different approaches — but this R&D can be expensive, so it is critical to set up a pilot that involves the right people and finds the palatable balance between cost and anticipated value.
Mike Mellor is the firmwide director of marketing and business development (BD) for Pryor Cashman, a 175-attorney firm with offices in both New York City and Los Angeles. In this role, he works to identify, develop and execute strategies to help drive new business for the firm and increase brand awareness. Mike’s nearly 20-year career has spanned various marketing and BD roles, working at such firms as Paul Weiss, Katten, and KPMG.