The final session I attended at the P3 conference was TyMetrix’s "Navigating the New Normal – Where to Start." The panel was moderated by John Strange of Baker Botts, and included Holly Montalvo, TyMetrix, Peter Eilhauer, Elevate Services, and Toby Brown, Akin Gump.
The attendee guide reads:
As law firms navigate in the new normal they are being asked by corporate clients to deliver their services in a more predictable and transparent fashion. Join our panel of experts in a collaborative discussion on ‘Where to Start’ on this path to deliver a more efficient and effective legal service deliverable while demonstrating value to your client in a transparent way."
As we’ve seen, there is a corporate appetite for more data to analyze what companies are spending on legal services. But where are we today in terms of understanding "big data?" The panelists say "in between a rock and a hard place."
There is a huge amount of data available, but the challenge is slicing and dicing it to make it useful. The key challenges that law firms are facing include transparency, managing internal change, creating better relationships with their clients, and aligning performance. You don’t want to wait for your clients to come to you with your data.
For those of us in this pricing space, we have to be careful to avoid "consultant speak," which lawyers don’t like. That includes words like "scope." That being said, Strange commented that some law firm competitors are aggressively underestimating likely scope when bidding on projects.
Data helps clients to see whether a bid is good or ridiculous, and clients will begin to reward good, data-driven bids. Firms have to start at ground zero and take baby steps from there when it comes to implementing these data capture/delivery processes (as was said the previous day, pilot programs are a good idea here).
To demonstrate value:
- Step one: Identify data and metrics
- Step two: Normalize data and benchmark
- Step three: Develop a service solution
Sometimes the problem isn’t a lack of data though – it’s too much data. So you need to drill it down and make it actionable. Benchmarking can help identify outliers, but it’s a constant process of sifting and pulling the data. Unfortunately, there’s no magic button – but there is software, analytics and people.
Timekeepers are the number one drivers of rate, so when working with them it helps to be able to point back to an actual source for why a price is reasonable when talking to clients. Use benchmark data as guideposts to define matters more effectively.
Ultimately, having workers work instead of owners work is what will make a firm profitable. And when partners start an objection with "But you don’t understand…" you need to have data available and analysis to respond.
Outside counsel are beginning to have guidelines for what they won’t pay for anymore, including first year associates. On the billing side, eBilling actually adds 14 days to the pay cycle, and the cost for law firms goes up dramatically – this wasn’t an indictment of eBilling, just a call for firms to look at how they can be more efficient in using it. Toby has asked clients whether they notice which firm’s bills are rejected more often than others, and the answer was yes – that impacts the RFP process, because it tells clients that firms aren’t paying attention.
Firms may think they’re being innovative, but it may not be what the client wants. Analytics can help to show that. Rates are important, but firms need to look at the overall fees in the market, and who’s doing what and for whom.
Once again, we had a session emphasizing not only the need to get more data, but also to work with it in a way that proves useful to both law firms and clients. Good, actionable data has a wide number of uses from enhancing the client experience, to making a firm more attractive in the RFP process.
P3 was a great, thought-provoking conference, and I look forward to continuing these discussions throughout the year!