Data is the new oil: the tech giants who control it are the new industrial titans, and it's the fuel powering the companies and industries growing the fastest.
Against a backdrop of time and cost pressure, Legal teams at fast-growth businesses are under huge pressure to deliver, facing overflowing inboxes, stretched teams and employee churn. Fuelling your legal department’s tank with data can unlock efficiency. And not just for legal – for the business as a whole. But how do you actually operationalise this and make your team truly data-driven? Here are 5 ways to do it - and 5 key benefits once you have.
How: build a data-driven organisation
1. Ask the right question
Just ‘having a lot of data’ is not enough. Your data collection must be focused. One of the things you are best equipped to do as a lawyer is understanding what the question is. Ask yourself: what question do you want data to answer for legal? Until you have the answer there’s no point sinking time and money into setting up a complex analytics environment. What are Legal’s objectives and key results in the short, medium and long term? What are the metrics that will show if you’re meeting them? Establish these at the outset, together with the key risks you want to mitigate, before getting started.
2. Make your analytics stack proportionate
If you’re a growth-stage business, do you need the same capability as an international bank, or a global media giant? They might need litigation tracking or cross-jurisdictional task management; you might just need to track legal spend and workflow efficiency. If your data infrastructure is sound (it’s worth getting this right from the outset), you can always build on it later – focus on what’s proportionate for where your business is right now, and where you want it to go next.
3. Weaponize data with dashboards
David Cameron’s No 10 Dashboard app aimed to change the way government reacted to real-time UK data; create your own dashboard that the whole team looks at every day. Solutions like Geckoboard can help you with a KPI-driven dashboard that steers the team with genuine, data-driven insights. Don’t be tempted to add everything to the dashboard just because you can – the aim is to reduce your team’s cognitive load, not add to it. Remember also that analytics and dashboards are not the same thing. Analytics are there to answer questions. Dashboards are there to drive team behaviour.
4. Become Excel gurus
You’ve mastered Word and PowerPoint; it’s time to round off the holy trinity of Microsoft Office. Every department has its Excel geek: they enjoy organizing data and visualizing it in presentations; they’re usually on time and prepared for meetings; often they get promoted on the back of some provable KPI win. Become an Excel guru and get crunching. A team that can make sense of its data – and appreciate its value – will make the most of being data-driven as time goes on. Excel is a deceptively powerful tool just sitting on your desktop – make the most of it.
"Teams that aren’t data-driven drift towards inefficiency, take on more low-value work and suffer from inbox overload. We all know where that ends up – resources drained almost as much as morale"
5. Tool up to win
Building your own analytics capability costs time and money, and wears heavily on another finite, precious resource – the goodwill of your IT department. There are plenty of off-the-shelf tools that juice up your data firepower, with minimal set-up and cloud-based storage: Apperio, Clio, Luminance and many others. And if you’re prepared to customize a little, you’ll see even more bang for your buck. Gather feedback from internal clients on how useful they are and refine your stack as you see fit. One easy win is getting workflow data through task management software. We’ve seen recent examples of legal teams using Jira for this purpose. If you use the tool correctly, the analytics are there for you automatically, without needing the IT team at all.
Why: benefits of being data-driven
Getting your data house in order needn’t be painful, but it is necessary. Once your capability is asking the right question, proportionate to your needs, dashboard-ready, driven by numerate lawyers, and delivered with the right tools, you’re ready to go. What are the upsides now you’re a data-driven legal team?
1. Lower risk
As an in-house lawyer, what’s your job? That’s right, reduce and mitigate risks for your internal client. You used to stick your finger in the air to gauge risks. Now you’ve got a dataset, you can prove wins that have lowered risk, and focus your efforts on moving the needle. If you were having to negotiate an average of five clauses per NDA a year ago, and now it’s two, why not share that news with the business? Share the data and, of course, don’t forget to talk about it in your annual review.
2. Lower costs
Hey you again, in-house lawyer – has your budget gone up lately? Thought not. Limited budgets mean you have to be creative and really focus your efforts on the highest-value risks. Now you’re a data-driven legal team, you have the certainty you need to be able to focus on the most important risks – and reduce wasted legal spend on those that you know don’t have an impact. The savings could make all the difference in a growth-stage business.
3. Higher revenue
Data can unlock revenue-generating opportunities. If you can analyse negotiation patterns in your contracts, you can use that information to help sales teams close faster, or help achieve more favourable terms in supplier negotiations. There’s no faster way to win friends around the business than helping them make more money – all you may need to do is take a closer look at your contract data. In the case of contracts, engaging with the business in this way may also help you shift some of your contract management budget to them.
4. Happier internal clients
As one FTSE 250 General Counsel put it to us recently, the personal KPI of in-house legal leadership is simple: “don’t mess anything up and spend as little money as possible.” Arming yourself with focused, business-relevant, risk-mitigating data is the quickest way we know to help you make good on that promise. A few quick wins can go an awfully long way in keeping your internal clients happy and supportive of what you do and the more they co-operate with legal, the better your ability to reduce and mitigate key risks.
5. Happier teams
Teams that aren’t data-driven drift towards inefficiency, take on more low-value work and suffer from inbox overload. We all know where that ends up – resources drained almost as much as morale. If the team can use data to know – not assume, but know – they are working on the highest-value tasks, addressing the key risks that face the business, and addressing them in a way that’s visible through the data, then morale is only going one way: up. Once the team is aligned, and productivity ensues, then happiness follows. In an age of employee churn in legal organisations, this has never been more important.