It’s time to Dazzle ’em with your Data.

April 7, 2019

According to a Forbes article, more data has been created in the past two years than in the entire previous history of the human race.

In today's digital universe, our virtual movements are golden fodder for marketers, consumer insight-ers, and data miners such as Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Google and any other forward thinking company seduced by this influential new commodity.

That’s right, data is fast becoming a company’s strategic asset class.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, Big Law firms are sitting on a wealth of data. And data is certainly surfacing as the cornerstone of any forward thinking in-house legal function.

As General Counsel and individual contributors, we may have a strong intuitive and qualitative understanding of the volume and sources of work flowing into the legal team, and that the team is generally always “busy”.

Yet it can be a challenge to convince our CEOs and CFOs of the same, to easily write that business case, or indeed speak in a language that resonates with our business general managers without one obvious lever.

Hello, data.

For non-law firm lawyers, the concept of data collection seems to trigger an instant association with time sheets, given our law firm backgrounds. It is very likely that most in-house lawyers do not miss time sheets and their productivity being defined by six-minute intervals.

The intention is not to replicate law firm value measures in the in-house environment. Rather, the point is to allow in-house lawyers to effectively articulate, other than by reference to a long to do list, where they are spending their time and why they describe their capacity out of five as a “headless chook” at the weekly legal team meeting, or to senior management.

For example, the last time I was recruiting for a lawyer, all of the short listed candidates were not able to quantify their current workload; they could only describe it qualitatively. It was eye opening for me.

Most teams have some basic quantitative analysis they track, typically focused around budget in terms of external law firm spend, cost savings and perhaps a list of settled cases or debts recovered (often used to show how the legal team is saving the business money by avoiding litigation). That is what I call defensive data.

In today’s data driven and ROI (return on investment) focused business world, I would suggest those reference points are not enough, particularly if your audience is non-legal.

You need dynamic data.

What finally convinced me to take the plunge into data collection and to integrate it into the way we work in late 2016 was seeing how easily our IT Director could convey the workload of the IT Helpdesk by purely using stats.

The penny dropped that there were parallels here in that a legal department is a helpdesk of sorts. Legal was therefore similarly capable of collecting and presenting similar data about its operations and value add.

As companies start to covet “big data” and spend more and more time in “The Cloud/s” (pun intended) the quest for reliable, informed and intelligent decision making is becoming the next “big must have”.

On the basis that Scientia potentia est, “knowledge is power”, us in-house legal peeps need to ensure, that when it comes to data, we “don’t be 2000 and late” as chimed by The Black Eyed Peas.

Want to know more about the legal data universe and what I mean by dynamic data? This blog post contains modified extracts from my ebook Legally Innovative, a copy of which you can access here.

For visual innovation inspiration follow @legallyinnovative on Instagram.

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