The Couch-Jumping Partner, Part I

September 9, 2014

Global Internet 2I talk to law firms daily about business development tools that analyze “Big Data.”  Over the past year, I’ve observed a noticeable shift in the conversations, as well as the demeanor of attorneys attending my meetings.  What used to be a discussion focused primarily on basics like assessing new client opportunities, understanding client needs and distinguishing a firm from its competitors has more often than not shifted from analysis of the past to predictions towards the future; from better understanding what has happened to more accurately predicting what is likely to happen; from historical to predictive analysis.

In a way, this is not something entirely new.  Predictive analysis is used commonly across numerous industries and the crystal ball, while never perfect, does seem to be getting more clear.  What is new, however, is giving a presentation involving lots of charts and graphs and witnessing an attorney jump out of her chair and run up to the screen for a closer look at metrics showing how long a company has taken to resolve a certain type of case, or the partner who interrupted my presentation holding up his handout, tapping it loudly and asking with urgency that I be sure to cover the statistics on how cases are resolved in a judge’s court.   In the past, meetings around competitive intelligence that included partners usually involved them being interested but never jumping out of their chairs.  This “animated partner” is an interesting shift, which has led to some very powerful conversations — and I must admit, a lot of fun!

Laying my cards on the table, my job is to help law firms evaluate business development tools offered by Thomson Reuters.  I help them determine whether those tools are a good fit for their practice and business, so of course I’m excited when they are engaged and find value in the products I handle.  I have to admit, though, the most exciting thing for me is seeing this shift and overwhelming enthusiasm at the partner level in incorporating statistical analysis to back business growth decisions.  When I witness attorneys who are so busy that it’s often hard to put the Blackberry down suddenly toss it aside, sit up straight in their chairs and start taking notes furiously, and practically “pull a Tom Cruise”, well that’s a good day.   To see their interest and enthusiasm is fun, but honestly, to see them so engaged about tools that truly can move their business forward, well, that’s exciting.

So, what uses have I observed partners be most excited and animated about lately?  Statistics & Big Data.  I know, that doesn’t sound exactly worthy of jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch, but really, it’s far more than simply statistics and Big Data.  It’s how the partners are finding creative uses for that data that makes them most animated.  Specifically, they are excited about analytics around how cases are resolved and how they intend to use that data to back business decisions.  Whether it’s looking at a company, law firm, attorney, judge, industry or court, they are finding a tremendous amount of value in being able to quickly ascertain how certain matters are usually resolved and the length of time they take to be resolved.  The most animated partners typically start telling me ways they intend to use this “intelligence”.

So what are those intended uses?  That’s something we will explore in Part II of this post, which be published on this blog tomorrow.