Drop that Zero and Get with the Hero: Using Big Data to Evaluate Law Firms #BigDataHR

Pssst… Hey you… Come on over here, I’ve got something to tell you… Come closer, if the other lawyers hear me, I’m done in this business… Okay, are you ready for this? Big data can help you evaluate law firms, whether you’re looking for a new firm or trying to determine if you should keep the firm you’re currently using.

Drop that Zero and Get with the Hero: Using Big Data to Evaluate Law Firms #BigDataHR

Big data can assist with evaluating new law firms on a number of different factors.  Of course, cost will almost always be an important factor.  After all, why should you pay more for legal services than you need to? So you’ll want to look at billable hour rates and totals for similar work.  But your analysis can, and should, go much deeper. Big data can provide insight into a great deal of additional information.

The cost of legal counsel means nothing if the firm can’t help you achieve success.  For litigation, analysis of law firms can help to determine whether they have achieved success representing clients similar to you, or with similar issues. For contract negotiations, big data can reveal a law firm’s ability to negotiate favorable terms.

You may also be concerned about the percentage of work is performed by partners versus associates. You may prefer a firm that primarily uses partners, because they generally have more experience and knowledge in their particular area of law.  Or a firm that uses its associates effectively may work better for you, because associates bill at a lower rate and result in lower legal bills.

Evaluating A Current Law Firm

If you already work with a law firm, you may want to use big data to evaluate that firm’s performance.  While many of the same factors are relevant to both evaluating new firms and evaluating current firms, a few additional factors may be important to you.

A law firm’s traveling costs can add up quickly for some companies, and big data can help to evaluate those costs.  Not only will you be able to determine the percentage of your legal bill that results from travel costs, but you can also determine if the firm’s physical location is detrimentally affecting your legal bills.

Maybe after you’ve used your newfound big data powers to evaluate your current firm, and as a result, you want to sit down with them to express your dissatisfaction with your legal bills. And maybe you point out a few areas in which they haven’t been very efficient.  After the meeting you can use big data to see whether they continue with their previous inefficiencies or fix the required issues.  And just as important, you can make sure they continue acting in a cost-effective manner.

Predicting Legal Costs

What if you could accurately predict the cost of obtaining the result you want before you even started? We lawyers hate to try predicting costs beforehand, because so many things can affect the time, and therefore money, a matter will require. Well, big data can help fix that too.  You can analyze case trends and similar cases to determine what your legal costs should be.  Big data can also be helpful in determining the optimal time and amount to settle a case.  Knowing your costs before you begin can help with determining whether or not to pursue a matter, or if its more cost-effective to settle a case early.

So what’re you waiting for? Big data is ripe for use in evaluating your legal counsel’s performance. Just don’t tell them you heard it from me…  After all, maybe you’ll decide that you’re better off ditching the big-city law firm and hiring a smaller one (*cough* call me *cough*).

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Casey Sipe

Casey is a management-side labor and employment attorney with Caldwell & Kearns in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he writes a labor and employment law blog, The Employer's Lawyer. He loves technology, social media, soccer and bow ties. Connect with Casey.


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