Imagine a world where you could filter your outside counsel like you filter your online shopping – you set the general framework for what you’re looking for and your system presents you with a shortlist of the best options based on your criteria.
Imagine if you could use actionable insights to move faster than your competitors, to make quicker business decisions and gain the upper hand. Now imagine if you could do all that while saving your company money and proving the business value of your legal department.
This is the world we’re headed towards – a world of data available at the point of action.
Karen Oxenford-Melcher is the VP of Sales Operations at Mitratech. With over 20 years experience in the software industry, Melcher is an expert in applying technology to drive business results.
“Right now, business insights are a differentiator, but over time, it will get to a point where it’s ubiquitous. Where if you don’t have these insights, you will fall behind your competitors that do. We have to prepare ourselves for that world because we’re going to be living in it,” Melcher says.
For example, say a technology firm gains competitive advantage from moving inventions through a patent process or getting trademarks approved more quickly and easily.
If you have easy access to information that helps you understand who the most efficient partners are, which internal resources you can turn to to get stuff done and who has the knowledge for the next type of patent you want, that ability to work quickly and move things through the process faster gives you a leg up over your competitors.
Being the first company to patent matters. And if your business is neck-and-neck with a competitor, but your business can get this done in weeks while your competitors take months, you have the advantage. And that’s just one example.
“Where I think analytics really gives us power is in the ability to focus those analytics at a specific point in time,” Melcher states.
Giving somebody insight at the point of action, Melcher continues, means the type of insights needed will differ depending on the role a person plays in their organization. For example, a General Counsel who needs to prepare for a board meeting will need insights into significant matters that must be brought to the board’s attention.
However, for a paralegal or attorney who has to review an invoice, the actionable insights they need changes. They need information that can help them understand if the right people are doing the right kind of work at the right stage of a matter’s lifecycle at the agreed upon rates. It’s a very different kind of insight.
Rather than the traditional approach of reviewing an invoice, where several hundred line items assault your eyes, actionable insights could provide a summary first. This streamlines the review process by allowing the reviewer to start with a dashboard that summarizes the invoice up front.
The reviewer could immediately gain oversight into how the invoice is spread across different kinds of timekeepers, such as partners, associates or paralegals. They could also immediately recognize the nature of the errors the e-billing system already flagged.
From the general summary, the dashboard could then dig deeper and ask questions, such as:
- Are the flagged errors a rate issue?
- Are they errors based on the work being done inappropriately?
These insights allow users to drill down into the data to determine the kinds of errors on an invoice, the context surrounding an invoice and how this invoice stacks up against the budget for the matter.
“Getting that kind of summary upfront gets your head to the right place. Once you understand what’s actually going on with an invoice, you can do a review in a focused and meaningful way. A way where you only look at the things you really need to look at,” Melcher says.
On the one hand, this type of actionable insight makes you more efficient, because you get the big picture right away instead of having to discover it as you go. On the other hand, it makes your review more accurate because you immediately pay attention to the right things.
“There is power in visualization. People get charts a lot faster than they get a table of data – that’s why we use them,” Melcher explains.
While data insights can provide summaries and answers, the data can also raise more questions. When it’s easy to dig into your data, when it’s easy to ask a question from your data and get the answer quickly, in minutes or hours instead of weeks or months, the power that gives the legal operations team to change their business is dramatic.
“It’s about efficiency, but efficiency isn’t the end goal. If you can do an analysis efficiently, you can take action that will have an impact sooner. That is where the true power lies.”
Most (good) legal departments recognize that they should be a strategic partner to the overall business. Having good analytics and being able to leverage data to gain actionable insights into what’s happening in the business automatically makes you a better partner. It enables you to be a strategic voice across the organization.
Looking for more information on how to leverage and maintain your legal data? Check out these helpful resources: