The Five W’s for a Data-Driven Law Practice

I had a chance to catch up with Mary Juetten, who consults with LegalShield as an Access Advocate and chat with her about the concept of the data-driven law practice. Mary wrote a book on key performance indicators (KPIs) for small law firms in 2016, published by Thomson Reuters, and her latest one was self-published last fall on Amazon. Below are Mary’s answers to the Five W’s plus a bonus on how to get started with the data-driven approach.

Todd Barrs (TB): Who can benefit from data-driven Law?

Mary Juetten (MJ): The principles of data-driven decision making come from professions and businesses outside the law, similar to KPIs. Lawyers in practices of all sizes can benefit from data and metrics, from solos to big law. Data can be gathered for an entire firm, for a practice area, or an attorney can measure only their practice. In short, every practicing attorney, and also in-house counsel should be adopting a data-driven approach.

TB: Why a second book?

MJ: After I wrote the first KPI book, many lawyers approached me and asked how to implement the metrics, including several that wanted me to do it for them. That book was intended to be an instruction manual for either the attorney or someone who would assist them. I realized that while it contained a comprehensive KPI framework for lawyers, there was not enough on the how-to around both data collection and process review.

TB: What is a data-driven law practice?

MJ: First, I have noticed that data and technology are often mixed up. For example, collecting customer satisfaction data does not require any technology, you can just ask for feedback. Even using a net promoter score (NPS—read more here), can be done manually. Data is simply information and does not require a database or other technology solutions. That said, using tools like Survey Monkey or Excel can make data collection easier. However, a data-driven law practice means that information is gathered and decisions are made based on the data and metrics, rather than a gut-feel.

TB: Where do lawyers start?

MJ: I recommend identifying your biggest challenge or problem. Once you have figured out what you wish to fix, take a step back and identify or articulate your mission, vision, and goals. Next, revisit your challenge and if it’s still a pain point, then move to review the associated workflow and gather the data. Don’t forget to gather baseline information for comparison purposes. Start small and move down the list of challenges and only then, can you step back and review other processes that are functioning without problems.

TB: When should lawyers measure?

MJ: Data is always first, before any decision on technology or other changes. In other words, the process review must come before the purchase. However, as outlined above, move systematically from the greatest pain points through all processes but not all at once. Create a schedule for the next twelve months and pick a challenge or process every other month, in order to have time every other month to evaluate the data from any changes to your processes.

TB: How does an attorney get started?

MJ: Any attorney can design and run a process review, brainstorm data, and make changes. However, it’s important to decide whether help is needed and what education is required for your team. Finally, there are books and articles on data collection, metrics, and process review, many of them free!

If you are interested in learning about this topic and more, check out Mary’s book on Amazon. As always, happy to receive feedback on any topic on Twitter @toddbarrs.

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