Enhancing Client Value through Predictive Analytics - The Inside Story

by JD Supra Perspectives

...predictive analytics provides an effective means of uncovering a small set of actions that will have the greatest impact.

As big data continues to revolutionize the way businesses operate, large law firms are increasingly realizing that they, too, possess massive amounts of data that they could use proactively — if they knew what to do with it.

The question confronting many law firm leaders is how to extract meaningful professional and economic insights that will have a positive impact on firms and their clients.

Law firms have a great deal of potential to mine their own data and answer critical business questions by applying new analytic techniques that reveal relationships and patterns they never could have seen before.

For DLA Piper and Axiom Consulting Partners, that meant working together to build a predictive analytics model that would help us better understand what truly drives client satisfaction and brings greater value to DLA Piper clients.

The Challenge

In the legal world, we have traditionally relied on attorney instincts and experience, conventional wisdom, what clients tell us they want and some limited quantitative information on best practices and past successes. But however widely accepted these methods may be, they are subjective, with inherent flaws.

Client satisfaction is driven by many factors, not all of which are clear and many of which are not even visible. Simply asking clients whether they are satisfied usually yields an overly simplistic answer. In addition, relying on the intuition of even the most successful attorneys pulls a firm’s marketing and client development efforts in multiple directions.

Client satisfaction is driven by many factors, not all of which are clear...

Some firms are working to address this problem using data, but often in a scattershot way. That can lead to a host of perfectly reasonable but disjointed actions, resulting in doing too many things, in too many places, for too many people, using too many assumptions.

The Solution

By applying predictive analytics to DLA Piper’s data, and combining it with the experience and knowledge of the firm’s attorneys, we have discovered one way to overcome this challenge. The model provides powerful insights into client behavior that have helped us objectively identify the patterns and actions that will have the greatest impact on clients. By detecting patterns in big data sets, we can accurately predict what actions will have the most impact and focus marketing and business development resources in those areas.

By detecting patterns in big data sets, we can accurately predict what actions will have the most impact...

To begin the project, we assembled all the data we could: client information, matter-level time and billings by attorney, backgrounds and experience of attorneys, interactions with the client and the like.

We built models designed to answer two basic questions:

  • How were satisfied clients different from those who were not? And
  • what did we do differently that seemed to increase their satisfaction? 

The resulting predictive model helped us uncover opportunities to take a few specific actions that have maximum impact – based on clients’ actual behavior, not what they or attorneys said.

For example, we discovered that, as clients grow bigger, they increasingly value the presence of industry experts on their outside legal teams. We also learned that receiving relevant interactions outside of the matters we are working on – such as tailored insights or business intelligence rather than client alerts – correlates to more satisfaction in the relationship.

Insights gleaned from the predictive analytics model allow the firm to prioritize...

Of course, DLA Piper has long engaged in this kind of activity. But the insights gleaned from the predictive analytics model allow the firm to prioritize it, backed by unbiased, hard evidence that it works.

Lessons Learned

The project also provided valuable lessons in how to build consensus at a law firm. Few firms can expect every partner to support a predictive analytics undertaking. But success can be achieved by assembling a coalition of the willing – the attorneys and practices most open to change and most likely to see the value in data analytics. It is also critical to articulate a very clear strategy about how projects will be executed and implemented, and to focus on identifying a clear problem to solve and a limited number of actions.

As technology continues to evolve and improve, there are more opportunities for law firms to leverage data analytics to obtain objective, actionable insights that guide business strategy. In our experience, predictive analytics provides an effective means of uncovering a small set of actions that will have the greatest impact.


A version of this article originally published in Bloomberg BNA’s Big Law Business

[Barbara Taylor is Chief Marketing Officer for DLA Piper LLP (US). In this role, she supports, develops and executes marketing strategies for the firm, practice groups and sectors in the Americas, while integrating these efforts globally. Taylor has more than 25 years of experience in the legal industry and previously served as General Counsel of BDO USA.

Dave Kuhlman is a Partner at Axiom Consulting Partners. For over 25 years, he has advised leading law, accounting and consulting firms on achieving sustainable success measured in profitable growth and excellence in execution.]

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