The Biggest Asset That Small Law Firms Ignore

//The Biggest Asset That Small Law Firms Ignore

It’s the thing that underpins the most successful businesses around the world and every law firm has it in some measure.

But it is regularly ignored or wasted, and rarely developed or used strategically in the world of solo and small law practices.

What am I talking about?

It’s a four letter word and the majority of people cringe at the thought of it…


As a marketer and a technology enthusiast, I both love and loathe data. I love it because it helps me better understand people and what they want. I loathe it because there is so much of it out there, and I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to focus on the information which is most relevant to my work.

Nevertheless my job is ultimately about creating happy customers, and as much as I rate my creative intuition, data is what tells me how to do it and whether or not I’m on the right track.

Most lawyers will tell you that their job is to ultimately to improve the lives of their clients, to make them happy (or least reduce their unhappiness). They’ll also tell you they want to run a successful practice.

So why does data get such little attention?

I’m going to discount the ‘not enough time’ response because you can use that excuse anytime and for anything. So, my best guess is that the average attorney either doesn’t understand the value of keeping and tracking client data, or doesn’t have the right tools to build a functional database.

If you want to talk about the value of data, look no further than Facebook. It’s a company that went public in May last year, with a peak market value of $104 billion (it dropped significantly after the IPO… but it’s still worth a motza!). Why is it worth so much when it only generates about 5% of that in revenue?

Because it has more customer data than you can poke a… ahem, lets just say that it probably has more customer data than any other business on the planet.

Small law firms obviously aren’t in the same ballpark as a technology giant like Facebook, but the underlying principle is still important – data is valuable to your business.

Really, it’s about getting the basics right; having reliable and up-to-date ways of collecting and maintaining information about your small firm and the dealings you have with clients. This includes accurate time recording and billing, a digital filing system that organizes your client information, and a database of matter history.

How can you leverage this data?

Here a just a few ways:

– Improve the efficiency of your firm by having all information relevant to a matter readily at hand.

– Save time and resources by automating documents using a database.

– Prioritize work based on what you know about the client – whether they pay on time, whether they are a long-standing client etc.

– Know where your referrals are coming from.

– Know exactly how much to bill for each matter.

Do you collect and use data on a daily basis? How do you use it to improve your practice?

By |August 21st, 2013|

About the Author:

For years, Josh has helped lawyers become more organized, productive, and profitable. A trained litigator, Josh came to Smokeball from a large east-coast law firm where his practice focused on franchise, insurance, marine, and general litigation. His work with Smokeball, and his continued passion for what he does each day, is driven by a desire to help lawyers and their staff do better in every way. Knowing well the stress and strain put on today’s legal professional, he regularly focuses on improving work and life in the law. He has traveled the country working with and learning from lawyers and their staff. Josh speaks regularly to bar associations about successful law firm practices and other legal topics. Recent notable engagements have been with the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Missouri Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Conference. In addition to his work at Smokeball, Josh serves on the Writing Resource Center staff at The John Marshall Law School. Besides legal technology, his research interests include judicial decision-making, jury decision-making and psychology, and legal writing. He has written and overseen research exploring causal effects of sex/gender on federal appellate court decision-making, and assisted with research for a forthcoming textbook on judicial decision-making. Additionally, Josh sits on the Board of Directors of Chicago-based Community Activism Law Alliance and on the Board of Directors of Chicago Fringe Opera Company. Josh holds his J.D., cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as a Senior Editor of the Wash. U. Law Review, held the prestigious Thompson Coburn Research Fellowship, served as Research Assistant to then-Vice-Dean (now Chancellor) Andrew D. Martin, and clerked at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and a B.M. in Music Performance with Honors Scholar distinction from the University of Connecticut, making him a Huskies basketball fan through and through. Follow Josh’s activity on LinkedIn, and keep up with new articles on the Smokeball Blog.