As part of a broader corporate team, legal departments have to report to C-suite executives on their efficiency, budgets, and resource allocation. But providing these performance metrics is not always a simple feat. Speaking at the “Real-Time Analytics and Business Intelligence for Legal Ops Professionals” session on May 9 at the CLOC 2017 conference, Thane Vallette, associate general counsel at HP, noted that for many legal departments, this is often a manual and time-consuming process.
When looking to create a report on outside counsel spend, for example, legal departments likely need to pull information from a variety of data sources, meaning that the data can “come in different forms and formats,” Vallette said. Yet even when all the data is aggregated and standardized, it is presented as numbers in an Excel sheet, which can be difficult to interpret and understand.
So what’s a legal department to do? While efficiently organizing all its data into one centralized reporting system is a possibility, it is often a tall order for departments that need to report on their performance far sooner than they can overhaul their entire information management process.
The ‘Magic’ of Performance Metrics
Creating a foundation to support performance metrics, however, does not need to entail such heavy lifting. For John Tredennick, founder and CEO of Catalyst, the foundation for enabling performance metrics reporting starts with what he calls a “data warehouse.” This is a repository where legal departments store relevant performance information, such as e-billing and outside counsel data, for a period such as every month or another set amount of time.
“The ‘data warehouse’ notion is that if there is a central place where we can keep this information—not up to the second, but current—then magic things can happen,” he said.
This “magic” starts when exporting data from this warehouse into dashboards, Tredennick explained, adding that such dashboards, “allow you to see the information” in interactive graphs and charts to better understand performance trends.
Vallette added that these dashboards also allow one to focus on the most pertinent and useful metrics by “filtering information by region, by companies, litigation, managers,” highlighting specific case statistics and information.
Performance Analytics in Practice: HP’s Experience
HP’s legal department teamed up with Catalyst to create a financial dashboard solution that reported on outside counsel and discovery information. The effort, Vallette said, enabled his team to “make decisions about what counsel to retain” and measure “how much per hour are we spending on document review.”
While the reports HP’s dashboard provide differ depending on which users access them, all reports allow users to view the data interactively. “It’s all interactive to the extent that if you have questions about any of the numbers or bars in a chart, you just click on it and you see what’s going on,” Vallette said.
But HP’s dashboards are not solely just for financial reporting. Vallette added that they also allow the department to measure multiple other performance indicators, such as “how effective our discovery management has been” and how outside counsel is working on a specific matter. For a particular case, “we can go through and see how often outside counsel is supervising a document review, and when their last login was,” he said.
Though HP’s legal department can rely on the data warehouse and dashboards they put in place for actionable insights, it’s far from something they can take for granted going forward. Having these dashboards, after all, “is pushing the company to ask how they can better show charts in different ways so different people can get what they need,” Vallette said.
And then there is the responsibility of maintaining the data warehouse and making sure that the performance analytics reporting abilities are keeping pace with current legal team needs. Vallette cautioned that those looking to implement performance analytics should always be thinking, “What happens when [the legal teams] go off to their next project and the system you built just goes off downhill?”
The idea is to always be looking ahead, he explained, at what new data can be put into the data warehouse, and what new visual ways data can be presented within the dashboards. Performance metrics, after all, should evolve and mature as the legal department grows and changes.