Data, Diversity & Delivering Value: Reflections on Buying Legal Council Americas 2019

It was a privilege to attend and participate in last week’s Buying Legal Council Americas conference. We enjoyed reconnecting with old friends, meeting new industry professionals and sharing our passion for actionable data.

Here are some thoughts, as we reflected on the views shared by the many insightful speakers:

Data quality impacts the effectiveness of data driven decision-making

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“82% of respondents reported that law firms are leveraging insights from total data intelligence and taking a holistic look at their own data,” according to a recent report by Ari Kaplan. With this increased spotlight on data, we believe it is imperative that law firms and legal departments are using high quality data to make important decisions around scoping, matter management and pricing.

Digitory’s Catherine Krow addressed the importance of data quality in her session, emphasizing that the legal industry cannot harness the power of data without first paying its “data debt" and transforming dirty and poorly structured data into actionable insight. We define actionable billing data as task level, well-labelled, accurately coded and connected to context.  When law firms and legal departments have actionable, decision-grade data, they will achieve better results for themselves and their clients.

Legal procurement teams want a better understanding of value from law firms

Current billing data and fee structures make it difficult for legal procurement teams to understand the value that law firms are delivering on engagements. One panelist commented “show me the numbers that show me how you made this more efficient.” Procurement teams and legal departments need more detailed information from their firms to be able to move away from the frustrations of the billable hour model to value-based pricing.

We agree with Matt Beekhuizen who said, “hourly billing data is the information that we have now, and we can use it to bridge the gap to achieve value-based pricing.” When law firms gain a better understanding of their own hourly billing data, then they can provide clients with effective scoping, greater transparency and predictably which can deliver on the holy grail of value-based pricing. 

Legal procurement can play a key role in driving diversity

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Despite the encouraging number of law firms who received the Mansfield 2.0 Certification, there is still much to be done to move the needle on diversity in the legal industry. Jonathan Lovitz commented, “the commitment and the numbers just aren’t adding up.” We believe that one of the tools for advancing diversity is actionable billing data. As Catherine Krow said, “When you have actionable data you can see whether your diverse lawyers are getting career advancing opportunities . . . When you can see it, you can fix it!” 

The conference focused on the important role that procurement teams can play in supporting their legal departments’ diversity initiatives by requesting diversity information from law firms in all their RFPs. One of our favorite moments of the day was a call-to-action by Adrienne Fox, who asked all procurement professionals in the room to commit to including a diversity question in their RFPs.  Legal Operations consultant Vandana Dhamija joined in that call, confirming that she would be encouraging her clients to be doing this too.

Thank you to Silvia Hodges Silverstein and her team at Buying Legal Council and the many wonderful speakers who shared their insights.  We look forward to supporting the legal industry as it advances on its journey towards data-driven decision-making.

Contact us, if you would like to find out more about how Digitory Legal’s data analytics and cost management services can help you to gain a deeper understanding of your billing data and more effectively manage complex fee arrangements.