Managing Big Data for Competitive Advantage

March 26, 2014

Cyberspace Spy“Big Data” is getting a lot of visibility in the law firm market lately, as it should.   Competition is as fierce as ever and we are beginning to see some clear separation between thriving and lagging law firms.  Many things go into that separation, of course, but from a business development perspective, you can really see that thriving firms are leveraging Big Data more effectively to truly know their existing clients and learn more about their ideal prospective clients. This knowledge guides strategies to target and acquire the most valuable work aligned with the firm’s strengths and profitability.

We should de-mystify the term Big Data a bit. Corporations have been leveraging Big Data in sophisticated ways for many years now; however, for a law firm that is just getting started, the concept can seem daunting. With so much information available from so many sources, how does a law firm even begin to corral quality information and synthesize it into useful, actionable intelligence?

As Thomson Reuters’ National Sales Director for Dockets and Business Development, I have seen firsthand how some firms have successfully tackled this challenge.

One of the most effective ways I have seen firms leverage Big Data is to capture the best information available to develop an intelligence framework. The first step in implementing this framework is to recognize that you must collect data from two main categories:

Internal Data is internal business data your firm produces on its own, such as billing information, data culled from internal databases like CRMs or your proposal archives. This information can give you a comprehensive understanding of what work your firm excels at, where your strongest client relationships are, when and where you have proposed to do work and where there may be opportunities to improve.  This collected intelligence can give you a strong sense of  what your best client profiles look like and how to build a strategy that nurtures and grows this business.

External Data is valuable information that comes from beyond your firm walls.  This is the market, competitive and client intelligence you need to best understand your firm positioning.  This collective intelligence can crystallize where opportunities are with existing clients, new clients and where you may be underpenetrated, based on your strengths.  It can also offer strategic guidance on potential new laterals, where to open offices, merger prospects, etc.  Another key element of external data is current awareness. This is a critical component of external data that can be challenging to execute. “Current awareness” refers to staying up-to-date on important happenings and emerging issues affecting your clients, developments related to your clients’ industries or important specific practice-related information. Without this information, attorneys may miss key opportunites or fail to anticipate areas to advise. In addition to content, delivery is extremely important for this information, because it is time-sensitive.

Now that we have collected data from these two categories, the next step is to analyze and formulate your intelligence framework.  This intelligence framework should now highlight who your best clients are, where the most profitable work is and allow for the development of client profiles.  The firm can now build actionable strategies to aim firm resources for development of the most valuable work to the firm. Exactly how you leverage Big Data depends on your firm and the way you do business. In this environment, it important to develop a strategy that is specific for you and uses these subsets to fully inform your business development plan. This will help you set the proper intelligence framework you need to help your firm succeed.

Rob Alston will be part of a panel presenting on “Big Data for Legal Marketers – Doing the Right Things and Doing Things Right for Bigger ROI” at the 2014 Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference on April 3 in Orlando. Click here for more information.