Canadian Lawyer

November 2022

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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4 UPFRONT NEWS ANALYSIS SIXTEEN YEARS after the British math- ematician Clive Humby coined the phrase, "Data is the new oil," law firms are exploiting data-driven insights. They are using data to deliver and price services more efficiently, optimally staff their operations, and maxi- mize returns on marketing dollars. "Law firms have access to a tremendous amount of data related to their clients, their expertise, the legal landscape, and busi- ness intelligence that impacts their clients," says Sona Pancholy, president of Meritas, a global alliance of independent law firms. "As technology evolves and lawyers are driven to focus more on finding creative and strategic solutions for clients, they' ll put that information to better use." Pancholy says firms use data to increase profitability, staff projects, and deliver services more efficiently. Business intelli- gence allows them to keep clients informed about regulatory changes and commercial impacts, use insight into their audiences for target marketing, and increase engagement with clients, she says. Lisa Stam, the managing partner at Spring Law, a Toronto-based employment law firm, thinks of the data coming into her firm as "a conveyor belt." It begins with online intake forms, a phone call, or an email to someone on the team. The firm uploads the client's data onto a portal view- able by the client, and eventually issues an invoice and closes the matter. They use integrated software so that no one needs to input any piece of information twice. In the end, the invoice should tell a story, says Stam. "It should tell exactly what you spent your time on and convey to the client what you did for them." While this story can enhance trans- parency, how much involvement clients want can depend on the area of law, she says. To what extent the firm gives clients agency with their information – providing and organizing all their data so clients can analyze it to keep costs down – "we're always evolving on that." Other clients may have no interest in making that type of effort and want bespoke – not DIY – services. "What will really elevate firms into a modern era of practising is to integrate all that automation and data collection into our day-to-day services so that the value we're bringing to the table is our judgment – the higher-level stuff – not data entry, which a computer can do." Data helps law firms flag inefficiency, says Stam. Suppose one person on the team consistently takes longer to deliver a specific work product in an area of special- ization for the firm. In that case, the firm can speak with that outlier about how they are approaching the file. The firm can determine what can be automated, what processes can be made more efficient, and whether that lawyer knows all the available tools. The lawyer is usually not "screwing around and not working hard," Stam says. "As technology evolves and lawyers are driven to focus more on finding creative and strategic solutions for clients, they'll put [the data firms have] to better use" Sona Pancholy, Meritas Data driving law practices Digital legal tools are enhancing legal practices as lawyers look to provide more efficient services to clients, writes Aidan Macnab

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