Law firms are turning to legal data for strategic business development insights and many have or are eclipsing their in-house counterparts when it comes to leveraging data to learn more about their clients' litigation portfolios. General Counsel need data to make the most informed decisions possible, and as legal information continues to become more widely available, there's no reason they shouldn't know as much as their outside counsel about
what's happening with their litigation portfolio.
In this article, we'll discuss some of the most impactful ways law firms are already using legal data to understand and anticipate their clients' legal services needs, how GCs can use those same practices to better manage their litigation portfolio, and how GCs can partner with law firms who are already innovating with legal data.
Anticipating Client Needs with Legal Data
When it comes to technology budgets and the adoption and implementation of new tools, law firms are typically better positioned than their in-house clients to onboard new technology providers. GCs are often bound to tighter budget restraints and have to wade through bureaucratic procedures within their procurement departments simply to get the tools they need. As such, firms can take advantage of the opportunity to test out more technology tools and the solutions of more recent entrants to the legal tech market.
More specifically, innovative law firms are moving beyond their legacy data providers to gain bulk access to the data they need to track all of the litigation in which their clients are involved. To do this, they are taking advantage of outside data sources that automate bulk data collection. This enables them to make informed decisions on which clients have new matters or pending legal services needs. This means they don’t need to rely on cold calls or blanket email pitches to discern their clients’ needs. Rather, they know what clients have needs even before the clients themselves do by way of receiving automated alerts that clients have been sued even before they’ve been served. Innovative law firms are proactively getting in front of issues to provide the counsel, protection, and offensive representation that clients need.
This begs the question: how are these firms accomplishing all this? The answer is the strategic use of Legal Data APIs, a tool that helps firms ingest data for all of the new cases filed involving their clients in a streamlined fashion. APIs, or application programming interfaces, are technological tools that allow law firms to swap antiquated, expensive, and labor-intensive processes for automated, accurate data collection and reporting. In the context of law firm business development, this looks like moving beyond hiring and managing teams of paralegals to track all the U.S. court cases filed every day to identify filings involving firm clients. Instead, firms are leveraging APIs to gain real-time reporting on litigation involving thousands of their clients all at once.
APIs also eliminate one of the most time consuming, meticulous, and risk-prone components of tracking clients’ legal services needs: data entry. By using APIs, law firms no longer need to research which clients are involved in litigation and then manually enter in the data into their matter management software or CRM solution. Rather, APIs can supply firms with all the litigation data they need, automatically enter that data into their systems, and allow firms to set triggers to notify business development teams or lead partners when key clients become involved in potentially profitable cases within their wheelhouses.
While this may sound aspirational, it’s not. In fact, AmLaw firms nationwide have already adopted this automated, data-driven practice of powering their business development efforts, and even in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s proven enormously successful for staying ahead of the competition.
Better Litigation Portfolio Management for GCs
The experimentation and success stories of AmLaw firms highlight a bright new future for GCs: they can take advantage of the lessons law firms have learned, without having to buy every shiny legal tech tool on the market. The key to better litigation portfolio management, and what many forward-thinking, innovative law firms have found, is getting reliable, recurring access to data - more specifically, data that has been structured, cleaned, and normalized
Just as it has helped law firms track and anticipate client needs, access to better data through APIs can help GCs manage their litigation as well. Automating data collection can greatly reduce the time legal departments spend locating new cases involving their corporation and slash the need for a substantial workforce to simply acquire and enter data. However, it can also help GCs eliminate costly errors inherent in manual data entry. Bad data leads to bad reporting, which can leave GCs spending endless hours poring over what should be basic reports on their company’s litigation.
APIs also break GCs’ historical dependence on law firm reporting and gives them more control over the direction of their litigation portfolio, and especially the bet-the-farm cases of the utmost importance. Further, automating litigation feeds with APIs empowers GCs to free up their in-house teams to more proactively manage their own caseloads and focus on strategy as opposed to being reactionary and waiting to find out what’s happening from frequently overburdened and unresponsive outside counsel.
Partnering with Innovative Law Firms
For GCs who are hesitant to invest the time and funds into integrating APIs with their matter management systems, or whose legal departments may lack the technological competence to undertake such a project, don’t go it alone. Partnering with outside counsel who are more proficient with technology integrations and have experience working with automating data streams and process flows can significantly reduce any perceived or real burdens involved in API integrations.
After all, there is simply no need to reinvent the wheel - and your outside counsel are likely more than happy to help share insights on best practices that have helped their firms thrive. Outside counsel can also mediate conversations with your key internal stakeholders if questions or concerns arise on the efficacy of integrating APIs - particularly if they, themselves, have already experienced great success with increasing their own efficiency while reducing overhead costs.
The future of the legal services industry is grounded in access to data, and there is no reason GCs can’t take advantage of APIs in the same way law firms have to better manage their litigation portfolios.
About the Author
Josh Blandi is the CEO and Co-Founder of UniCourt, a SaaS offering using machine learning to disrupt the way court records are organized, accessed and used. UniCourt provides Legal Data as a Service (LDaaS) via our APIs to AmLaw 50 firms and Fortune 500 businesses for accessing normalized court data for business development and intelligence, analytics, machine learning models, process automation, background checks, investigations, and underwriting.