As in-house counsel continue to cull their legal resources, law firms are focusing on client services as a competitive differentiator. Tactics such as creating client service teams and leveraging technology to deliver more for less permeate the industry. By engaging in these activities law firms are able to add value and proactively manage client relationships.
Law firms are amassing a growing volume of data. Within this growing body of data lies key information that could be utilized to hone client services. Solid enterprise business intelligence (BI) technology, when used effectively, will enable law firms to provide superior service to their clients and distinguish themselves from peer firms.
What qualifies as enterprise BI technology, and how will this technology help to create value for a law firm? Business intelligence is a set of tools and techniques that enable the transformation of raw data into meaningful information. A BI solution should be a one-stop shop, enabling firms to: bring in disparate data sources; prep and transform data; and create interactive, real-time reports and visualizations. This same technology should support consumption in a variety of formats (i.e. laptops, tablets, mobiles devices) and embedded analytics (see example here). With these capabilities, law firms will be able to improve client-access to information and create a culture of transparency, enable proactive marketing efforts, and improve the efficiency of internal firm processes
Create Transparency By Improving Access To Information Using Embedded Analytics
Many law firms employ the use of secure client extranets to improve communication and create transparency with clients. Modern enterprise BI technology allows firms to embed whole dashboards, or single visualizations into client extranets providing real-time, interactive (fully clickable and drillable) information to clients. Clients are placed in the driver’s seat with a platform to explore fully a 360-degree view of all matters. Key metrics and dashboard items displayed may include: work in progress hours, total dollars spent, write offs, write downs, and billing detail. All metrics can be filtered and analyzed by matter, area of law, timekeeper, task, date, or invoice number. A firm may choose to display a live feed of upcoming events and deadlines as well key firm contacts and relationships.
If a data point exists, it can be displayed in an embedded dashboard. When clients are kept informed regarding detailed matter activity, clients are less likely to dispute billing statements. It is well documented that A/R performance improves when billing policies are clear and billing is prompt. Billing policies and key performance indicators signaling overdue invoices should be front and center in an embedded or shared dashboard. For added convenience, links to a secure payment portal should be embedded alongside invoice detail on the dashboard.
By providing the clients access to detailed analytics and specifics regarding their matters 24/7, clients can now help themselves to information, which will in turn improve client perceptions regarding accessibility.
Use Analytics To Drive Proactive Marketing Efforts With Existing Clients
In an issue of Law Marketing Exchange, John L. Remsen, Jr. urged law firms to consider the following, “It takes five to seven times more time, effort and money to generate a new matter from a new client than from an existing client, 80-85% of next year’s business will come from the firm’s current clients, and 80% of the firm’s business is likely to come from the top 20% of its clients.” By leveraging business intelligence technology, firms can easily monitor their data sources and set thresholds to identify a decrease in new matters being opened by a particular client. When a threshold is hit, it can trigger an automated email alert to the relationship attorney encouraging proactive communication with the respective client.
It is important to communicate often with clients, even when there are no open matters. Firms must constantly look for opportunities to remind their clients of the firm’s value and identify opportunities to extend new services. Using BI, law firms are empowered to leverage both on-premises and external sources of data. Consider putting together a business intelligence application that notifies the relationship attorney when a client’s name appears in the news.
Improving The Efficiency Of Internal Firm Processes Will Improve Client Service
Business process management (BPM) and business intelligence are complementary to one another. When an organization combines the two disciplines, they put themselves in a position to be more agile.
Law firms are beginning to automate many business processes with BPM. The new matter intake and conflicts management process is one example of a process that is frequently automated with BPM. Using BI, law firms can connect to data generated from the BPM solution to zero in on bottlenecks associated with opening new matters and clearing conflicts.
For new clients, the intake is process is their first interaction with the firm. If this process is slow or inefficient it may come across as a red flag to a new client. It is in the best interest of the firm to continually monitor metrics associated with this process to ensure it is smooth for the potential client.
In December of 2016, McKinsey Global Institute published, “The Age of Analytics: Competing in a Data-Driven World.” This report affirmed that in regards to adoption of analytics, “Most companies remain in the starting gate. Some have invested in data and analytics technology but have yet to realize the payoff, while others are still wrestling with how to take the initial steps.” Like other industries, many law firms have invested in, or are exploring options for BI, but are wrestling with where to implement it first. Law firms should consider focusing first on applying BI to productively and proactively manage client work in order to serve the client more effectively.