Digital data wave on a dark background
LegalDecember 21, 2023

Leveraging your data for even better legal ops

In the world of legal operations, leveraging data effectively can be a game-changer. With that in mind, at the ELM Amplify 2023 user conference, ELM Solutions featured a panel discussion entitled Data is hot! How to fire up your legal ops using the data you already have. Our guests for the session were Stacy Lettie of Organon, and Brian Keipert of Cincinnati Insurance Company. The conversation covered the benefits of using data well and provided some practical advice for getting started. Below are some of the highlights.

Planning your data use

The first step in wielding data effectively is understanding the audience. What story are you trying to tell, and who is your audience? Our presenters suggested that, for stakeholders with a financial focus, you should delve into granular details, sorting and splicing data in multiple useful ways. In contrast, a report for the General Counsel might be a high-level overview. The key is to tailor the narrative to the objective of helping everyone on the team make informed decisions. Doing this well requires a nuanced approach.

Examples from both presenters illustrated that reports on new assignments, budgeting versus actuals, and rules around case classifications can be invaluable in managing many aspects of your legal operations. However, the seminar encouraged creativity in utilizing available data sources because each company has specific goals that some of its available data could help meet.

The presenters noted that law firm diversity data is a common area of focus for many companies, but they should not stop at reporting on the law firm level. Regardless of the diversity levels across the firm, most companies will be concerned with the diversity of the outside counsel actually assigned to their specific matters. That’s why you should consider evaluating diversity data at both the firm and matter levels for a more accurate representation of compliance with corporate diversity policies.

They also emphasized the importance of leaning into vendor partners who understand the type of data available. Collaborate with those who can assist in extracting meaningful insights, making the process more seamless for your internal staff.

Presenting data effectively

Keeping in mind your understanding of your audience and what you need to convey to various stakeholders, you should consider how to present the data most effectively for each. The impact of data storytelling can hinge on selecting the right visualizations to best communicate the information. Stacy, a visual learner herself, underlined the simplicity of using Excel's visualization tools. Exporting data in Excel simplifies the process and is particularly suited to the presentation of high-level spend data for attorneys and GCs.

Brian prefers PowerPoint presentations and visualizations when sharing data with law firms. During annual meetings with firms, he shares relevant performance data to foster firm relationships and help develop a deeper understanding of each other's needs. Sharing this data in easily understood formats increases law firms’ understanding have about is important to the company and what they are being judged on. This clarity helps support strong outside counsel relationships.

Applying data in spend and budget management

Stacy and Brian both talked about the importance to their organizations of effectively managing legal spend and budgets. Quarterly life-of-matter budgets, coupled with simple reporting and alerts, enable proactive decision-making as spend rises on a matter. It is far easier to have a conversation with a firm about avoiding overages before a budget has been exceeded than about why they are already over budget. As helpful as data can be in addressing difficult situations, using it to prevent those difficulties in the first place is far preferable.

Cincinnati’s insistence on firms submitting budgets on litigated matters, combined with 13 years of historical data, exemplifies the importance of having well defined processes over time. By consistently recording budget and spend data, as well as task codes on the line items in your legal invoices, you can uncover patterns that will help you hone your billing guidelines and improve cost management in the long term.

This seminar underscored that the key to firing up legal operations lies not just in having data available but in using that data in meaningful ways to drive informed decision-making and foster collaborative relationships with law firms. As legal professionals continue to navigate the evolving legal ops landscape, the art of mining data for important insights will remain a cornerstone of success.

Enterprise legal management
Market-leading provider of enterprise legal spend and matter management, AI-powered legal bill review, and legal analytics solutions
Back To Top