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Adopting a Sports Mentality Towards Data Can Deliver Competitive Advantage to Law Firms article image

Adopting a Sports Mentality Towards Data Can Deliver Competitive Advantage to Law Firms

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By Simon Farthing, Commercial Director, LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions

Over the last two decades we have seen the sporting world revolutionised by its capture and analysis of data transforming the performance of individuals in teams. Data-driven insights are increasingly a topic of interest in legal, with many law firms investing significantly in dedicated teams and leading edge technologies for data-led predictive analysis.

Of course, the quality of data can make or break a data-driven business approach. So, the first question any firm must ask is, “Are we truly capturing the right data, accurately and at the right point in time in our processes?” This is crucial. Doing predictive analysis for instance, based on data gaps that have been filled retrospectively for the purposes of an analysis, may be a futile exercise as it’s unlikely to be accurately representative of reality.  

A better approach is to capture data in real time, so that the information is gathered as the task/activity/event happens and is instantly accessible. Once a piece of data is accessible, it can be fitted into any process. And when you automate this entire procedure to enable real-time data analysis, then you’re on to something!  

You can leverage the data to inform all manner of activities and case decisions in a meaningful way –which cases have resulted in the successful outcomes?, why outcomes in some cases haven’t been positive?, what decision making trends do we see in our best lawyers, how can lawyers engage better internally and with clients?, where are the gaps in expertise and knowledge in the firm?, how can new business leads be better triaged and onboarded to deliver a better client experience?, and the list goes on.

Turn your data-driven approach to business on its head

Rich data can enable you to completely turn your approach to data-driven decision making on its head. Rather than asking your data scientists “to look for X trend”, your data experts will have the ability to “paint pictures” to highlight aspects of the business that you may not have thought of – by way of examples, areas such as closure outcomes, risk, fraud, legislative impact on business, etc. – and for your firm leaders to then interpret and take actions on these issues, as appropriate.

Consider the pilot of a small aeroplane navigating through mountains; the plane will give them access to all the necessary data in terms of air speed, altitude, wind direction, and so forth – but of course on a clear day they also have full visibility out of the cockpit, so they can clearly see the flight path, and all is well. The data is handy, but not essential, when a pilot can see where they are going, but it truly comes into its own when suddenly the plane hits rough weather – the flight is bumpy, and visibility is next to zero – turning that data into the guiding instrument, the “eyes” if you will, that helps fly the plane – what speed should the plane be flying at?, what height?, how strong is the tail wind?, is the airspace clear or do they need to adjust for safety?, and such.  

The secret to successful data-driven decision making lies in how it’s captured

To facilitate this kind of data-driven decision making, foremost, identify where you are in your data journey. Investing in actively collating, cleaning and consolidating existing data so that the firm has complete visibility of what historical information exists, its integrity, how it can be made part of the critical business processes, and most importantly, where the gaps lie – is an effort worth undertaking.  

Evaluate how your firm captures data. Asking lawyers to spend valuable, billable time to contribute to data gathering efforts hasn’t yet, and is unlikely to work in the future too. Data capture simply isn’t part of their job description, they are law specialists who are focussed and indeed measured on the advice they give clients to solve legal problems.  

Data capture needs to be run by technology, silently in the background, in real-time, invisible to lawyers and other users of technology systems in the firm. It offers the most efficient and effective way of assimilating information. Also, aside from data accuracy, gathering data retrospectively poses another challenge. Terminologies to describe things used in business are constantly evolving and changing. How do you capture information from years ago, when you don’t know what it was called then? A good technology system will provide referencing capabilities, linking different taxonomies, terminologies and phrases together to make the intuitive connections, so that the information always remains meaningful to the business.

With data capture routine, it becomes easy to overlay reporting tools such as Power BI or other visualisation applications to identify trends and insights, including operational, behavioural and strategic, to deliver competitive advantage – what type of cases does the firm lose to competitors?, is pricing a factor?, what are the kind of cases the firm typically takes on?, what are the common challenges we face to deliver against those cases?, what tasks and activities cost us the most money? are there any consistent patterns that are emerging across our business year on year?, are there opportunities to go into new verticals or areas of law?, has the new ‘X’ legislation impacted success and profitability?, and so on.

The sports sector is a shining beacon of light when it comes to data-driven activity. You just have to look at Formula One racing where data is holistically captured and analysed, in real-time as the race is underway – to make adjustments, predict outcomes, change strategy and win.  Firms that “buy-in” to data in this manner can genuinely gain competitive advantage. The good news is that the technology exists, firms just need the right mindset and the correct processes to do so.

Tags: Visualfiles

About the Author:

Simon leads the Go-To-Market (GTM) function at LexisNexis® Enterprise Solutions with overall responsibility for the Sales, Business Development, Marketing, Sales Operations & Client Engagement Teams. Simon is responsible for ensuring that we develop and enhance our customer relationships and grow our presence within our chosen markets, helping our valued clients gain greater value from their investment with us.


Simon has been with LexisNexis for six years. He has worked on a number of key strategic client growth programmes leading our Client Engagement Team across the Enterprise Solutions portfolio. He has also acted as Global Account Director for some of our largest international clients. He is a qualified Lawyer, Project Manager and Business Analyst. Simon has over twenty years’ experience in the legal services sector and spent many years of his career practicing law within a number of notable regional practices and subsequently headed IT, Development and Comms for a Top 100, 450 user Law Firm, in his time there implementing Lexis Visualfiles, Microsoft CRM, iManage, Bighand, Artiion and Aderant solutions, to name a few.

Other Hobbies/areas of interest

Simon is a competitive sailor, a technology addict, a motorsports enthusiast and enjoys spending time outdoors with his family.

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