It’s 4 p.m. on a Wednesday. A practice group leader at your law firm just confirmed a lunch meeting tomorrow with the CFO from a major insurance company. The company is unhappy with its current counsel and is considering a change. To prepare, the practice leader needs as much information about the company ‘ and the insurance industry ‘ as possible.
One of your colleagues spends the evening on Google, pulling together research that ranges from recent news summaries to the company’s public financials. If she finds the right data, the practice leader can earn the company’s trust, and your firm might just win a major client. But, if she can’t track down the right details, it could represent millions of dollars in lost potential business.
Analyzing data and providing the right kind of data is critically important to every aspect of legal activities. When you’re expecting data to act as a secret weapon in the sales process, the courtroom, or to provide a strong foundation for your firm, the quality of your information is priceless. To uphold your firm’s integrity and ensure its success, it’s time to get your staffers off Google and arm them with data intelligence. Below are four ways to get started.
1. Know That Google Can (and Will) Drain Your Time and Resources
The variables surrounding your firm’s decision to take a client or case are vast and unpredictable. When you’re doing the research to prepare for either decision, you need to get your homework done quickly, but thoroughly. However, if you’re not careful, that research can become a major project that wastes your team’s time, energy and budget.
For example, the primary task for most client onboarding teams is to assemble company profiles, such as the one created for the insurance firm your colleague met for lunch. Every one of those profiles includes high-level details such as team overviews and market landscape summaries, as well as granular details such as regulatory checks, recent transactions, biographical profiles, internal intelligence and strategic plans. Conducting such research on the open Web can also be time-consuming and risky, as your colleagues might mistakenly use imprecise search methods, spend time sifting through irrelevant details or sink hours into vetting inaccurate information. Instead, intelligent data repositories and platforms can cut the time you’re sinking into research while unearthing the relevant data you need.
2. Don’t Accept Conflicts of Interest As Inevitable
In the legal world, conflicts of interest can run rampant if you’re not careful ‘ so much that some firms accept them as a necessary, though unpopular, roadblock in certain cases. Don’t fall into this method of thinking. Instead, avoid conflicts by outlining the types of information your firm needs to be successful:
- Clients’ and prospects’ parent companies;
- Corporate family trees; and
- Merger and acquisition (M&A) history.
Once you create this list, update it constantly. The information can’t be stagnant ‘ it must reflect changes within target companies and in the broader marketplace. Then, ensure that your staff has access to all of the data and search tools it needs to be successful.
For example, if your firm’s conflict resolution team receives an average of 20 claims per day, your staff’s small team of conflict analysts might be responsible for carrying out up to 250 searches daily and ensuring you avoid costly, embarrassing conflicts of interest, such as mistakenly suing an entity in the same corporate group as an existing client. If the team has no support beyond public search engines to investigate claims, every submission could become a wormhole of potentially incorrect details and excess information that would block the path to resolving a conflict. Instead, arm your staff with rich data analytics and detailed search tools that can instill trust among clients and avoid compromising your firm’s integrity.
3. Use Data to Fuel Marketing, Development and Other Aspects of Business
Beyond the adrenaline of a high-profile case, quality data intelligence and analytics can make your teammates’ lives easier and your margins wider.
For example, a law firm’s business development and marketing team’s primary objectives might include:
- Monitoring competitors on an ongoing basis;
- Sharing insights about clients, news and general industry challenges;
- Assisting senior management with resource planning;
- Researching speaking opportunities to highlight client expertise; and
- Supporting other departments’ initiatives by conducting research about prospects, technology and more.
If the team uses a data intelligence solution to aid its data collection and planning efforts, the deeper analytics could help the team:
- Respond quickly to requests for proposals (RFPs);
- Provide informed recommendations about industry-specific trends;
- Gain regional insights;
- Identify cross-selling opportunities;
- Prepare competitor profiles; and
- Track lateral partner moves.
With big data solutions on your side, you’ll equip your law firm to target its marketing campaigns, increase their efficacy and give the firm an upper hand when it comes to new clients. Your firm might also be able to expand its client practice in new strategic industries, based on its newfound understanding of vertical trends.
4. Recognize That Quality Matters, and Better Data Equals More Confidence
A client’s initial request for legal support often expands as the case grows and gains momentum. As a legal team identifies conflicts of interest, conducts competitor research, gains expertise in a new industry and ensures compliance every step of the way, that initial request for “support” can begin to feel like a laundry list of tedious action items.
Your firm can’t afford to let things as valuable and business-critical as client trust and your reputation become reduced to ‘ or dependent on ‘ an item on a checklist. Maintaining access to the right data and conducting fast, accurate research helps assure your firm’s ongoing integrity, your clients’ well being and the ultimate success of your business.
Consider this: When your attorneys are heading into a high-profile case, what data resources are backing up the opposing side’s research? How confident are you that your team has everything it needs to win the case and best serve the client? How confident are your clients that you are more prepared than the other side?
If you’re still leaving your fate in the hands of a public search engine, it might be time to re-evaluate your decision.
The views expressed in the article are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of their clients or other attorneys in their firm.