By Josh Blandi, CEO and Co-Founder of UniCourt
Law firms, litigation support firms, and others in the legal industry vertical are quickly turning to legal data as a new and powerful driver of legal marketing and business development efforts. The evolution of access to computing power, combined with the growing availability of legal data — such as court, business, attorney bar and judge data — along with the rise of data science as a discipline, has led to its increased value in the modern economy. It’s no surprise, then, that this trend is coming to the legal industry.
This article will discuss challenges inherent with using legal data, and how law firms can leverage legal data to find new matters with existing clients and uncover business opportunities in the broader competitive landscape.
The ‘New Oil’
Much like oil, legal data is difficult to extract and doing so requires serious infrastructure, expertise and resources. This data has been historically difficult to access, and the expense to acquire the quantity of data needed to create value is cost prohibitive for most. For perspective, consider the difficulty of developing the infrastructure needed to aggregate legal data from hundreds of state and federal courthouses across the US, as well as data from all of the business agencies and bar associations needed to get a full picture of who’s involved in litigation. And it doesn’t stop there — acquiring legal data is only the first step.
As with crude oil, legal data needs to go through its own process of refinement and enrichment to be able to drive business development efforts.
It often contains spelling errors, name variants and different structures from one source to the next. For instance, if a firm wanted to know when a big client was involved in litigation, but that client’s name was misspelled in a case filing, a potential business opportunity could easily be missed. Through AI powered entity normalization, legal data can be made useful by clustering together similarly named entities like attorneys, law firms, businesses, and judges, enriching those clusters with public data sets to map them to actual real-world entities, and building relationships between entities by linking those clusters together.
With the advances in legal technology, refined and enriched legal data is now more readily available for firms to use than ever before. The question now is how do firms make use of this “new oil” to drive innovation in their legal marketing and business development?
Leveraging Legal Data for Business Development
Generating new business leads from existing clients and finding business opportunities with potential new clients is crucial. While word-of-mouth referrals and traditional legal marketing tactics have been business development mainstays for firms, legal data provides the ability for them to dig deeper into their clients’ needs and be more targeted in approaching untapped opportunities in the legal market falling squarely within their wheelhouse.
First and foremost, once firms have access to legal data, they can begin to automate lead generation with current clients. Specifically, firms can use available technology to get automated alerts when their clients are involved in litigation. Being the first to know when clients have a legal services need provides business development professionals with an actionable lead, instead of having to wait for a call or email from a client that may never come. For example, think about a law firm handling a large portfolio of consumer litigation for a client. Proactively approaching that client to handle new matters helps the firm secure that work while defending against encroachment from competitor firms. Furthermore, with legal data revealing all of the matters the client has in their portfolio, the firm may discover other lucrative opportunities in practice areas other than consumer litigation that it’s well-positioned to take over. This provides business development professionals just the opening they need to try and expand the firm’s market share, while simultaneously defending existing streams of work from competitors.
Outside of consolidating and expanding work with existing clients, firms can also use legal data to find new clients and enhance their business development tactics. When legal data has been refined and enriched, firms can readily uncover which clients have large recurring volumes of litigation in the firm’s strongest practice areas and jurisdictions. Firms can then direct their legal marketing efforts to those potential clients while engaging in targeted legal recruiting. Beyond revealing which clients have rich business opportunities, normalized legal data can also tell firms which specific attorneys are representing those clients and could be high-value lateral candidates for legal recruiting to expand their client roster.
Positioning for the Future
In an increasingly competitive legal landscape, legal data provides legal professionals the competitive advantage, the “new oil,” they need to shore up and grow business from existing clients and inform their broader legal marketing and legal recruiting efforts. Positioning for the future is about more than keeping up with competitors for legal professionals. It’s about preparing for and employing the best means to successfully navigate the challenges ahead, while taking a data-driven approach to capturing new business development opportunities.
Josh Blandi is the CEO and Co-Founder of UniCourt, a SaaS offering using machine learning to disrupt the way court records are organized, accessed, and used.