Written by:

Jane Oxley

The Biggest Asset That Small Law Firms Ignore

August 21, 2013

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…

Data.

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?

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