By Anna Lozynski
If you can’t measure it, you can’t see it – Bréne Brown
Want to truly harness your innovation power, well then, I need to introduce you to the wonderful world of data.
We generate insights and integrate data into our everyday lives both knowingly and unwittingly. From DNA tests, targeted ads, programmatic media buying, wearable devices (think FITBITs, tech togs, yoga tights, UV patches, smart watches), to sharing your geolocations and whereabouts on maps.
Remember Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal?
Whether you like it or not, you are a walking piece of information. In the information and digital ages, we each leave a potentially insightful sprinkle of data everywhere we go. To quote the lyrics of Australian singer Deborah Conway - “It’s only the beginning”.
When I released my first e-Book Legally Innovative in 2018, data and analytics was like teenage sex. Everyone was kind of talking about it, but nobody really knew how to do it, so everyone claimed they were doing it.
In 2021 know this about big data: analytics will drive major innovation and disrupt established business models in the coming years.[1}
Organisational structures and processes are set to expand to include and accommodate teams of data analysts, data scientists, data engineers and Insights-as-a-Service specialists to help companies capitalise and transform it into valuable insights. The demand for data gurus will make recruitment headlines.
Data is the Next Best Thing to Chai Lattes
Increasingly, data is becoming a company’s strategic asset class.
Our virtual movements are golden fodder for marketers, consumer insight-ers, and data miners such as Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Google and any other future focused company seduced by this influential new commodity.
It’s also surfacing as the cornerstone of any best practice in-house legal function.
As General Counsel and individual contributors, we may have a strong intuitive and qualitative understanding of the volume and sources of work flowing into the legal team, and that the team is generally always “busy”.
Yet it can be a challenge (or even a battle) to convince our CEOs and CFOs of our actual productivity, to easily write that business case, quantify savings or simply speak in a language that resonates with our business colleagues across all levels.
I love a chai latte, but I’m obsessed with the power of data.
Data has changed my working life. It gives me a live snapshot and insight into the hive of activity and productivity that is a legal team.
So I find it interesting that a) law firms who are sitting on a wealth of data are not better utilising it to gain a competitive advantage, and better using it for their PR & Comms purposes; and that b) there aren’t more in-house teams being data focused.
Most legal teams have some basic quantitative analysis they track, typically focused around budget in terms of external law firm spend, cost savings benefits of having in-house lawyers, and perhaps a list of settled cases or debts recovered (often used to show how the legal team is saving the business money by avoiding litigation).
But, that is what I call defensive data. In today’s data driven and ROI (return on investment) focused business world, I would suggest those reference points are not enough, particularly if your audience is not legally trained.
Dynamic data is what you want.
I can appreciate that most in-house lawyers never want to go back to planet billable unit. Productivity and performance management doesn’t have to track time, and still capture a great picture of the team’s effort and output. Data collection can be simple yet tell a far more sophisticated story than a time sheet. The information feeding into the data dashboards can be cut up in various ways, and used across a myriad of communications with various stakeholders, as well as any business cases.
What convinced me to flirt with the prospect of data collection was two things:
First, the penny finally dropped about the parallels between an IT helpdesk and a legal function. That is, a legal function is a helpdesk of sorts, and is similarly capable of collecting and presenting data about its operations which is something IT teams have been doing for decades.
Secondly, in 2016, the winner of the Association of Corporate Counsel Corporate Lawyer of the Year Award won because of the sophisticated data collection initiative she had led. It inspired me to no longer ignore my instincts about how important data was going to be to #lawyerlife, and so I was finally ready to commit to working with data.
So, if you too are ready to take your relationship with data to the next level, here’s some advice.
I will not judge you for stealing a KISS on your first date with data.
It will be less overwhelming if you Keep It Simple, Stupid. If you find yourself getting carried away, and injecting too much lawyer into it (because the possibilities do span wide when it comes to data), come back to the fact that data collection needs to be sustainable and easily integrated into the day to day of a legal function.
Mindfully consider the process and number of data variables to ensure the collection or entry process is as quick and painless as possible, and depending on the purpose (you may have multiple).
Data is a must have when it comes to building business cases for investment into legal tech.
The next thing I want to put on your innovation radar is that the IT team is definitely a necessary companion for your legal innovation journey.
A quick coffee with your IT colleagues could lead to being granted access to existing software licences as well as to a few hours of an IT resource to help configure the legal team’s dashboard, if you want to build your own. As your comfort and data needs evolve, your data collection could extend to launching a fully-fledged legal matter management software.
If, Data is Business Friendly - make it your new best friend
Individually, and as an in-house legal community, we know how valuable lawyers are. At the same time, we are not doing all that we can to articulate that to the business in a way that resonates with them. Data ensures your legal function is “seen” in all its dazzling and hard-working glory. Let’s not continue to learn the hard way by, as one example, not being able to justify additional resources, because we don’t have quantifiable insights at the ready to share. Let’s stop talking about our value defensively on legal panels at conferences, or indeed with our business stakeholders.
Do not let cost be a barrier to entry either. If you do indeed piggyback off existing IT software, no budget may be required. For the rest, passion and commitment to your relationship with data may be all that is needed.
Use Data to communicate your performance story
Yes, the struggle to curate and collect data may be real, as it does mean adding a little data entry time to your everyday no matter how senior you are.
But, trust that the effort will be both gratifying and validating. Data can raise the consciousness of your business colleagues about how much pressure the legal department is under at any given point. It may also serve to explain a perceived responsiveness issue.
Conversely, it can help the legal team shift towards becoming more focused on allocating their time and effort to what is business critical. Knowing where the churn is and how much volume it drives, together with an appetite to improve that, is all a step in the right direction towards transformation.
Further, don’t forget to tap into the insights available from all of your stakeholders, internal and external. Data from an internal stakeholder survey can provide a legal function with valuable insights. Data drives “value creation” opportunities: how is the team perceived, what are their strengths and areas for improvement, and what is the overall satisfaction rating which can then be used as a benchmark moving forward.
Consider surveying your external legal providers too, as this can also be insightful. Plus it’s doing things a little differently which might be refreshing for these relationships, and make them feel more of a two way street. Law firms do not often get asked for feedback about how their clients are faring, or get to rate them!
Data may also give you the impetus to implement some SLAs (service level agreements) across the business. These SLAs can help you define when, how and what kind of legal work does and ought to flow through the legal function. Side note - A service level agreement with your business colleagues need not be a boring traditional agreement, it can be a good looking and “on brand” grid or matrix.
All in all, us in-house legal peeps need to ensure we “don’t be 2000 and late” as chimed by The Black Eyed Peas when it comes to the legal figures.
Data is more of a game changing perfect match with a legal function than any sceptics may have you believe, and it’s definitely worth the investment and effort. It gives you a dynamic perspective, it allows you to do a “live cross” to report a dazzling story about the team’s performance.
And those innovation fears? Data can help allay your underlying concerns about taking that bold step towards innovating or transforming the way the function delivers legal services. Because, numbers don’t lie, in and outside of a business case for transformation.
Anna Lozynski is an award winning executive general counsel & author, turned Change Agent, Advisor and Influencer. Starting out at a major Australian law firm, she has spent the majority of her legal career in-house working in the banking, automotive and cosmetics industries. In 2021, Anna has donned her entrepreneurial shoes and launched her own Advisory service, on a mission to help law and business adapt to the digital age.
She believes that innovation is invigorating, change is energising and efficiency will never go out of fashion.
In addition, she is an Advisory Board Member to Mys Tyler (a fashion tech startup), She Breaks The Law (a global female innovator network), and sits on the CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium) Australia Chapter.
Described as a change agent, Anna is a sought-after commentator, mindset coach and consultant both domestically and internationally – seeking to shift the dialogue in order to propel the corporate world forward.
You are invited to join Anna’s online communities @legallyinnovative and LinkedIn as well as @annaloz on Clubhouse.
As companies start to covet “big data” and spend more and more time in “The Cloud/s” (pun intended) the quest for reliable, informed and intelligent decision making is becoming the next “big must have”.
Measurement has and will always be a way to assess business success, which must include legal.
In that context, there’s simply no time left for any more excuses for leaving the topic of data off the legal team agenda.
Being data focused as a legal team, is being future focused.
This is an extract from Anna’s e-book, Legally Innovative, which you can discover further here.