Predictive Analytics – Gaining a Competitive Edge

by Timothy Corcoran

Law firm leaders who embrace predictive analytics to manage their businesses and their practices can establish a sustainable competitive advantage over competitors who rely on gut instinct and sheer intellect to leader their enterprises.  There are multiple opportunities to employ predictive analytics in a law firm:  to run the business more efficiently and effectively; to pursue more lucrative clients and engagements; to recruit and train lawyers for success and longevity; and to practice law in such a way as to be a step ahead at all times.

Michael Lewis, in his book Moneyball, later made into a movie, uses baseball as a metaphor for the power of predictive analytics.  Many people assume the book is about baseball.  In fact, baseball is just the setting.  The point of the book is to demonstrate how insightful leaders, using data that may be readily available but ignored by most, can gain a competitive edge. But one doesn’t have to know anything about or even like baseball to gain valuable lessons.  During my tenure as a corporate executive, I would purchase this book for all of my senior managers in order to foster a culture of predictive analytics in our business.

In a recent talk delivered at the LSSO Raindance Conference, Boston Celtics president Rich Gotham discussed the role of predictive analytics in managing a major sports franchise.  He acknowledged the heavy use of analytics on the court – the Celtics coaches regularly analyzed opponents’ tendencies and then devised game plans to exploit weaknesses. But Gotham went on to describe the critical importance predictive analytics play off the court as well.  As he explained, team management has to know who to target in order to sell the most tickets.  They need to know which combination of price and amenities will appeal to different target markets.

For example, by rigorously studying patterns in renewals and cancellations of luxury boxes, Celtics management discovered a critical miss in their sales strategy.  The target demographic for luxury box suites is high net worth individuals and corporate executives, but these buyers are also the most likely to have other commitments, including regular out-of-town travel, which limit their availability to attend multiple home games. 

The Celtics addressed this problem in part by creating a secondary ticket market for luxury suite owners. If a luxury suite ticket holder can’t make a game, the team will help resell that ticket. This approach removed the box holders’ concerns about a wasted investment and significantly improved the luxury box renewal rate.

How does this apply to law firm leadership?  Very simply, there are data available today that leaders ignore, instead relying on instinct and intellect to manage their enterprises.

In Moneyball, the crusty old baseball scouts who eschewed data but could recognize a “baseball body” were, statistically speaking, wrong far more than they were right.  This is not unlike recruiting in the modern law firm, where top grades from top law schools are used as a proxy for quality, when other factors are likely to play a stronger role in the recruit’s chance of success and longevity in the firm.

In countless practice group retreats when we list our client targets for the coming year, inevitably we identify multi-national companies with big legal budgets, or existing clients who have represented large billings in the past.  In fact, deeper analysis may reveal that our most lucrative clients are, for example, companies with less than $0.5 billion in revenues, doing business in a narrow range of SIC codes, with a certain geographic footprint and a management profile that suits our lawyers’ personalities.  Yet we ignore those prospects in lieu of the fruitless pursuit, along with hundreds of competitors, of the same old FTSE 100 or Fortune 500 companies.

And yes, these concepts apply even to the practice of law.  The increase of project management and process improvement has illuminated for lawyers that while every matter may be unique, each is likely comprised of tasks that we’ve tackled countless times previously.  As we learn how to break matters into component tasks, we recognize that reassembling these tasks into new combinations for purposes of budget forecasting gives us a competitive edge – not only can we confidently price a matter based on past performance, but our deeper understanding of how these tasks have interoperated in the past helps us minimize surprise as the matter progresses.  Start layering in knowledge about specific adversaries and even judges and jurisdictions, and our reasoned analysis of what’s likely to happen based on what’s happened previously will look like voodoo to an outsider.

I will discuss the role of predictive analytics in two upcoming sessions. The first is in New York on Wednesday, November 6, and the second is in Boston on Thursday, November 7.  I will lead an interactive discussion for law firm leaders, practice group leaders, law firm c-level executives and those leading business development and strategy. This will be followed by a reception hosted by Thomson Reuters, the event sponsor.  For more details and to register, click here.

Written by:

Timothy Corcoran

Corcoran Consulting Group on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.