Law firms have always used data to make better business decisions. But now it’s getting easier and quicker to collate data into meaningful insights from which partners can make executive decisions. Ian Brownhill, Finance Director (pictured) at Manchester-based law firm Berg, has recently implemented a new approach to data management by extracting data across the firm’s core business applications to draw new insights from the combined information. This is just one of the innovative approaches berg has taken, focusing on core values as the imaginative law firm which in 2015 has celebrated its 35th year with a growing national profile and client base.
“Our existing Practice Management System already included a degree of reporting functionality,” said Brownhill, “however it didn’t integrate information from other sources such as spreadsheets created by staff or data coming from other applications. In order for the information to be presented simply and concisely, we needed to collate data across our systems into one output, giving us a single version of the truth.”
Dealing with the mass of data
Berg has responded to a situation that many firms are still struggling with. Law firms now have sophisticated systems in place that generate masses of data, but are only just starting to pull this information together rather than relying on application-specific reporting that doesn’t integrate with other application data.
So data is now abundant, but it is not being harnessed
One of the reasons behind this data paradox, says Brownhill, is that many Practice Management Systems designed for the mid-market legal sector do not include mature reporting capabilities, meaning that in order to access integrated reporting functionality a firm would need to purchase expensive enterprise legal software or completely overhaul their legacy PMS platform; both of which are costly and disruptive exercises. Law firms in particular face a growing problem when it comes to managing data; primarily due to the fact that they collate huge amounts of client data, in addition to their own data generated from day to day business operations. Firms are now looking to harness this data to gain a more holistic view of their organisations’ operations.
Big data is a behaviour – not just a technology
In addition to harmonising existing financial and operational data, the big data trend is driving firms’ behaviour; encouraging them to mine for data across each function of their business. Business development and marketing departments are now recognising that business analytics data showing customer trends, purchasing quirks and campaign performance can ensure that revenue generation activities are more successful and targeted. This is also a focus for Berg, as Brownhill commented, “Using data tools to bring our management reporting overview documents down from 20 pages to a simple one pager has been a huge help to our business in achieving high level visibility of our business, however harnessing information that we already have within our systems to aid with marketing and business development activities is the natural next step – and is where business analytics really starts to impact on revenue generation.”
Moving beyond the PMS
Data held within PMS systems delivers some degree of insight to Managing Partners, however when that information is combined with outputs from the CRM system, invoicing and payment applications and outbound marketing results, the information rapidly becomes a source of valuable insight that can help teams with creating sales strategies, assessing client payment probability and recovering historic debt.
The future of data in the legal sector will inevitably see reporting functionality extended out to firms’ clients. Some companies already offer functionality to clients allowing them to access portals for viewing updates on their own cases; however sophisticated analytics tools will soon enable partners to share real-time KPI and case reporting to customers within a secure system to keep clients updated on their terms, rather than those of the firm.
David Ricketts, Head of Sales at legal hosting and analytics specialist, C24 Ltd, sees extending visibility to end clients as a crucial step for law firms competing with online providers. “Online service providers are already very adept at providing real-time reporting to clients,” commented Ricketts, “and traditional firms are now able to use clever analytics tools to combine data and present it back to clients securely – to ultimately improve the wider customer experience”.
PMS platforms will naturally look to build analytics capabilities into the PMS application from the ground up, rather than reporting being an add-on service to an existing tool. This will allow for the integration of multiple external data feeds to add new insight to existing information – to enable better business decision making at every level within the modern law firm.” Here’s a link to a case study on the Big Data project C24 undertook for Berg C24CaseStudyBerg