A Single Source of Truth for Pricing and Legal Project Management
Pieter van der Hoeven, Senior Director of Business Development at Litera and co-founder of Clocktimizer hosts Jessica Davis, Director of Matter Performance and Service Innovation at McCarter & English, for a discussion of the ways that smart use of data can enhance pricing and Legal Project Management practices in a law firm. Read transcript
Pieter van der Hoeven
Senior Director of Business Development at Litera and co-founder of Clocktimizer
Director of Matter Performance and Service Innovation at McCarter & English
Welcome to Legal Tech Matters, a Litera podcast dedicated to creating conversations about trends, technology and innovation for modern law firms and companies big and small
Now continuing on, we will now explore how firms can deliver legal product management and pricing at scale and ensuring all the moving parts stay aligned during that process?
And there we are. Hello. Hello. Hi, Jessica. Hi. Hello, everyone. My name is Pieter van der Hoeven. I'm co-founder of Clocktimizer, which is now part of Litera. And today's session is about the benefits of having a single source of truth for pricing and legal project management. And how to create that single source of truth. And in the next half hour, I have the pleasure and honor of speaking with Jessica Davis. She's a Director of Matter Performance and Service Innovation at McCarter and English and celebrated speaker and panelist Jessica. Welcome. Welcome. Thank you so much for being here today.
Hello. Hello. The pleasure's all mine. I enjoy all of our chats.
The thing that's amazing, I mean, we've just seen the session from the team from objective manager talking about a single source of truth. Before that, we had Foundation business talking about a single source of truth. We're really going to round it all up today and talk about single source of truth for pricing and legal project management. So this is a live session, so not only a warm, warm welcome to you, Jessica, but also a warm welcome to all of our attendees. And if you have any questions that that's the beauty of a live session, feel free to post them in the chat channel on the right hand side of your screen at home. So a little bit later during our session, we'll actually make time for some Q&A would love you have some questions from the audience.
So please make sure that they're concise, very pastable onto the screen,
So to Jessica, for now, we've heard about a single source of truth being so important for law firms. But let's take a step back, right? How would you describe or define a single source of truth and how is it so useful?
Yeah. So for me, I see a single source of truth as a shared framework or approach, shared language and shared metrics. So I think that often, especially when you're dealing with collaboration internal to an organization, some of the breakdown or the friction that you encounter isn't because of misalignment of incentives that can be the case, but often everyone is really trying to do the best for the organization.
And it's just we aren't really on the same page when we talking about how we approach things or we're not speaking the same language or measuring with the same yardstick. So I feel like if we can make sure that we're in alignment on those things and even you can expand that to include a process for disagreement and, you know, resolution. But if we're in alignment on those things, I think you can really get into that high performing team dynamic. And then the other part of that is, I think, transparency. So making sure that all of those things at once, you've agreed to them, they're stored in a centralized place and they're accessible to a cross-section of
people. And I'm of the mindset that I like to define stakeholders as like everybody who can impact or thinks that they may be affected or is affected. That's really broad. And so I try to make sure that there's as much transparency as possible because I found that uncertainty is really one of the things that can hinder collaboration and just high performance generally. So there are things having complete certainty and everything is impossible. But where it's possible to have some certainty, I think it's really helpful.
And I love how actually all of these sessions of today are kind of coming back to because we're all thinking about a single source of truth being like, you know, we need all the data in one database or something. But it's so interesting to hear everybody actually say what a lot of it is not necessarily only the data, it's really, are we singing from the same hymn sheet, right?
Are we sharing that language? And when we when we were talking about this before, I also realized that it is something that actually we do when implementing software, right? We align on how we talk about things. Are we talking about recovery rates? Are we talking about realization rates? How are these calculated? If you don't do this kind of things, it becomes to becomes impossible to tackle issues, right? If, when, if and when they arise. So I'm hundred percent with you on the shared language. You're saying, right, that the central data set, is just not the only thing that is important.
It's not the only thing. It is very important, particularly when you're trying to modernize a law firm or a law practice, but you can have a data set that centralized. But if you don't have an alignment in terms of how you're even interpreting that data, people can use it to just actually undermine each other instead of rowing in the same direction.
Yeah, and I think that's so important. So let's let's say that we have all our processes aligned. We have our definition synced. So to say and I would hand you a magic wand to bring the firm's data together, what would your ideal data stack look like? Where would you start?
Well, I definitely will if Clocktimizer is offering magic wands?
We try. We try to produce a crystal ball. But you know, it hasn't yet materialized. So maybe we just pivot into the magic wand, but I'm afraid you have to stick to Harry Potter for that for now.
But assuming it?
Right, right. OK, so I have my Clocktimizer magic wand and I'm going to start with financial information because I think that that's something that, across all law firms, we usually have that because we want to make sure that we're billing effectively. And so inside your financial information, you'll have a lot of really helpful data. It will include who did what, when, how long they spent doing it. And hopefully you'll have some sort of like task codes or something like that.
You may have additional information like area of law or practice group that would be helpful. So once you have that information, then you can start integrating it with some of the other sources in the information that you may have. I personally think you can start internal and then work with external as well, so the next step could possibly be your HRIS system. Often we're being asked to provide demographic information, not just who we hired or who is employed by our firm, but clients are increasingly asking who's working on my matters and how much are they working
on my matters?
So being able to link your system to your financial system and that information, I think, is really helpful. And this is also specifically when you're talking about HRIS, it's so important to have that collaboration there because this is highly sensitive information. And so you want to make sure that you're talking to a lot of different stakeholders about how you move this information to where you need it and how it's going to be used. And then another category of internal information that you could possibly pull together is stuff related to the actual legal engagement.
I say this category for last because it's often not particularly structured or it's not in a place where it'll be easy for you to just sync up with the rest of your data. But it can be really useful and it can be game changing. It could possibly exist in someone's actual office in just paper, but you can get things like, you know, let's say you're dealing with someone who does a lot of construction work. You may have different types of contracts or specific vendors.
Perhaps they represent one big company that contracts out with a bunch of different people. We may be able to learn lessons from like if that's the people that we're working with or if that's the type of work that they're going to be contracting. We can either measure something, you know, how much it's going to cost, level of effort, et cetera, then you can link it to the external information. So I'm really using this magic wand
I can see, and you're doing an awesome job at it, right? And it's actually amazing that you bring up the diversity part of it, right? Is it something that you do see more often? So you see clients are asking more? Is it part of a client engagement or outside counsel guidelines? What, what do you see in terms of development around data that you need to provide from a diversity and inclusion perspective?
Yeah. So it's definitely RFPs, pitches, proposals and we're also getting direct requests. So specifically, you know, they're trying to hold their vendors accountable and we also get things like sustainability requests. So, kind of when you're viewing your clients, they have their corporate goals and objectives and they have some expectations for their vendors. And depending on the size of your organization, it doesn't matter. You know, if you're a law firm or you the people who sell them their pens, they have some expectations for their suppliers.
And so, yeah, we're getting those types of requests in all different ways and with increasing frequency.
Yeah, and it makes sense right there. There's a lot of talk about, you know, building sustainable supply chains. And this is a part of that, I would say. And interestingly, there's actually a talk coming up on today's Changing Lawyer Summit about diversity, equity and inclusion. So stay tuned, we will move back a little bit with our magic wand bonds to the pricing and legal project management area because let's say you're pricing director or another professional or partner working in pricing, how do you benefit from this, magically putting together sets of data.
So I find that it's really useful because you can analyze the data to identify salient characteristics that could impact either price or timeline or performance. And it depends on exactly what you're trying to measure, but you can identify if it has foreign language requirements or a certain number of foreign language requirements, or if it's in a particular venue. Particularly once you start plugging in with those external resources, like litigation metrics or market data or regulatory events, you can really start to predict things. So one example is in the past when I was working at a different firm, we were looking at a patent prosecution and we realized through our data analytics that the number of inventors in a patent can actually impact the cost of how much it would, you know how much effort it would take for us to make sure that we secure that patent on behalf of our client?
And that's something that we got through data analytics that we went in. We validated that with our internal data and also the practitioners, and it bared it out to be true.
I love this example. You know why? Because it's the number of inventors is actually something that you can with quite a bit of work, but you can extract it from existing data sources, right? It's just in the patents filing. It's this just this, this line that you need to pass, because I think that's what we need to think about, right? What is the possibility? Which sources can we actually exit a lot of? Look, I've heard many times can we not figure out how many depositions we did, but turns out it's really hard to surface that data, which then makes it really hard to leverage that for pricing purposes. You can do it maybe on a scale of three to four, maybe ten matters, but do that on doing that on hundreds or thousands of matters. It's just really, really hard work. So I like it, you know, think about where that's where those sources sit and then, yeah, use it for pricing for making yourself competitive in the market. I like that, right?
And this is a plug for additional collaboration because a lot of those resources. And even if you talk to your KM people, some of the things that your firm already owns can be hooked up via API, where you can get some of that data without, like you said, having a huge data initiative or
you start trying to collate it yourself.
Yeah, and that's actually where I want it to go, because it may sound so daunting to hook up all of that data. So I thought, maybe we can think and talk about how we can maybe uncover data points that are already existing in other parts of the firm that maybe unknowingly or passively collected? How would you go about it? How do you surface those kind of things that may not be within your own realm? So to say,
Yeah, I am a big fan of just talking to people, so I love initiating conversation or collaboration very early on.
I kind of see my interactions in the professional world to be a little bit like you would if you were networking for a sales job. If I have something with me, maybe I'm working on something that I think maybe even slightly tangentially related to somebody else. I may just send them an FYI, something that I sent to somebody else and be like, Hey, if this is something that I'm working on, I don't know if it has anything to do with what you're working on, but just wanted to let you know you're invited if you want to sit down, sit and listen, or if you have something to contribute. And I found that even when people are like, Oh no, no, that's fine. That's not really in my wheelhouse, but maybe we can talk about it so I can learn more about what you do.
Like that is even a win. And then sometimes they're like, Actually, we have this initiative that has this data that would plug it nicely. So that's what I think is key.
Yeah. And it's when you talk to people there, I think there's different I have no idea.
I'm not not I'm not a biologist or anything, but your brain starts to work differently and it's making connections and associations that you wouldn't make if you were just on your own sitting and thinking. And it's nice if you talk about things, you hear what people are struggling with, even if you shared that. You can all of a sudden also, and I think that's what Seth Godin said as well, right? If you don't open up, you're not really connecting.
And if you're not really connecting, you're not learning and finding ways that you can help maybe someone because you are sitting on that data. So it's really sharing about those, about those things that will help you get better at it. And yeah, talking about different systems, there's a whole bunch of stories I could I could go with. But before I get into that, I think it's actually good for that to remind people that, you know, there's still room to ask questions. We're live. So if you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments. Chat on the right hand side of your screen and we can talk about them in in just a minute. I think that's worthwhile.
We have Jessica here now. I mean, how often do you get that opportunity? Not that often. But so let's talk a little bit again about about data, right? And talking singing from the same hymn sheet. It's it reminds me of a process I've run at Clocktimizer actually where we were invoicing and using two linked systems for it, one for text, one for administration. And we invoice on the first day of the month. But we're I'm actually sitting in Utrecht in the Netherlands, close to Amsterdam, which has a nine hour time zone difference with the U.S. West Coast, where the tax reporting system was based. So it turned out when I submitted an invoice at the end, it was at midnight on the first day of the month, it was still last month on the West Coast in the US. So all of a sudden, Mike Q3, my October reports didn't match what I had in my system with what was on the system. And again, you know, this is something where I think, you know, having aligned on definitions, having aligned on what data you're looking at. Yeah, it's just so important.
Yes, that's a fantastic example. We have similar things here as well. And again, that's one of the reasons why I think really broadening the tent to include people who maybe they may not be the ones who are performing legal engagements or pricing or managing the legal work, but they know the systems really well, and they could have possibly flagged that for you earlier on.
Another example, like specifically within the LPM pricing relationship, is sometimes when a pricing team may be talking directly with the in-house counsel, they may be pricing or scoping. And let's say, for example, you have like three motions to dismiss. We anticipate the motions to dismiss. But the time it comes to my team, for us to track that information, we may not be able to report back the way that pricing has structured the budget. If we don't have those conversations early on for a multiple multiple reasons.
But one example is if we're going to use task codes, there isn't really separate task codes for separate motions to dismiss. They all kind of fall into the same bucket. But we can have if we're engaged with setting up the templates or engaged in those conversations, we can flag some of these things early on.
And I've also seen where the in-house counsel, once they hand that pricing over to the legal operations team, they actually come back with some of the same criticisms and critiques that we do. So I think it also is what I can't think of your client as a monolith.
There's and there's so many examples, right, where just having that communication lines open is just paramount to getting to a good result. And we talked about shared language, but we've also talked about data and data quality, and it aligns, right? And a big challenge I see for many firms is how do we keep our data clean? How do you how do we keep our data quality high? And what sort of initiatives would you recommend from your experience to keep data as good as possible?
Yeah, I think you have to start with really thinking about your process and being very honest about the culture of your organization. So something that works in one place may not work in another. And also, people may be open to putting in a certain level of effort in one context, but not in another. So one of the things that I think is important is figure out like, maybe it's at the point of time entry. You may be requesting a certain amount of information or at the point of file opening. You may request certain information because there is an incentive to to do that right.
There's an incentive to get your file open so you can start being like you can start questioning. Is this something that's self-reported or is there an external data source that we can use? Will we validate this by a subject matter expert? These are all kind of questions that you may have. So one example of where you may use an external data source is if you have industries, if you want to make sure that you are capturing your client industries, perhaps you start out in an external source that codes those and then you validate internally by a subject matter expert.
The key to scaling is really trying to make sure that you have as few errors as possible at the outset built into your process and then validating that with, you know, hopefully your throughput error rate is too high and it doesn't take too much of a lift.
Another thing is if you have the ability to influence the culture, really encouraging everyone to view themselves as a data source, it truly is important for everybody to see the benefits of what you're doing and to understand that we all play a part. So you know, you may be frustrated entering your time, but if you enter your entire time correctly in the future, I can give you that spot on price that you've been asking for and trying to make that pitch as well.
And would you agree that it sounds like a lot like garbage in, garbage out, right? It's that what we what we what we hear a lot about when we talk about data,
it's even worse than garbage in, garbage out. I think because it's garbage in, garbage out. But then over time, it just gets worse. So it's more like garbage in, garbage out and then you make a photocopy of it and then a photocopy of that photocopy. For anyone who knows what a photocopy is – I've dated myself. .
Yeah, I know, I know. But you know, let's say that you scan it right and then you take a scan of another screen in another. But I think I think everyone gets that, but it's it's right. But so where where would you do your checks? So you have like a myriad of applications, right? And I know that there are initiatives where, you know, people just go through all the data and they don't have magic wands. And unfortunately, and they just have to go to where where do you do you hook in those quality processes to get the maximum output to best output?
So I think it's really important to take a look, map out your whole journey and identify the point where you can get the biggest bang for your buck. It really kind of depends on where you are also in selling or pitching your initiative. So it could be that at the beginning of pitching your initiative, you may be doing something really manually because you don't have the technology in place or the allocated resources, and you have to show that there is an ROI for this so that you can get them to invest in what you're doing.
That shouldn't be where you stay, though. So hopefully you're really successful and you've demonstrated the value, then you really should start to think, where can we best position this checkpoint or a tweak in the process in order to really scale?
And in scaling, I'm listening to try and processing it as we speak. You said people need to be a data steward, right? Would you always recommend explaining why you're collecting certain data? Or do you think that if people know what you're collecting the data for, that could skew the data because people would manipulate it on entry.
I think that it really depends on your organization and your culture. But one of the good things about transparency is that people will be policed essentially people who are police, others, people will police themselves. They will try to be honest if they know that everything is kind of out there in the open. I'm a big fan of transparency, and I'm a big fan of explaining to people why we're doing what we're doing.
And you do have to keep an eye out for people who are trying to game the system. That does happen, but it's one of those things where someone's always going to try to game the system regardless of how perfect your your platform is or how perfectly you think you've outlined everything. So shining a bright light, I think really helps to deter that type of behavior.
Yeah, and it's probably if we want to keep it simple, right? It's about doing the right thing and then the right thing. I would say it is quite obvious here to tell people what you're collecting and why and what you're using it for. So I did get a question from the audience, and that question is what types of data are proving to be most beneficial for a firm's BD initiatives? Thanks, Damian, for asking.
So I really think you can do a lot with BD initiatives by using your financial information. So even if you don't have some of the other things that we're talking about, you can take a look at cross-selling between different practice groups. You can take a look at clients where maybe it's a really profitable client or it's a really good client by whatever metrics you use in your law firm and then looking in your dataset to see if there were any other clients that are similar or the similar situation. And this is where you may if you aren't very sophisticated with all of the data that you have integrated, you may need to do a little bit of extra research outside of your existing platforms to see kind of market trends, et cetera, et cetera. But I think that you can definitely start there. Another way is, like I mentioned, you can look at industries and identify things that perhaps it can be done really well at scale. And then you can also look internal to one client.
So perhaps when you look at a client, you'll you're seeing, Oh, well, this particular pocket of work has grown significantly over time. Is there anything that we can do to really target expanding that even more? How do we pour gas on that? How do we make it more profitable for us? And also, maybe the client wants predictability. And so we can capture more work that perhaps they're handing out to other clients or other firms to make it more ours? Get a bigger slice of that pie.
Awesome. And that actually leads me to the next thing because we've also, you know, we're talking about a single source of truth so that we can scale our operations if we're at that speed. So that's pricing what actually legal project management. So what would be your starting point to scale the pricing and legal project management process?
Oh, that's a hard question, because I think that it's very specific to where you are and what the appetite is at your organization. So I think if I were going to and what I have done, if I'm going into a situation where it's just like Blue Sky, pick wherever you want to start. I like to try to keep my ear to the ground to identify pain points that people are having and constantly have an eye towards where can I actually have a return on that activity as soon as possible? So that could be something like, you know, budget tracking, which depending on what platforms you have available, that could be either really easy or really hard, but you could possibly redeploy some of your existing systems to help with something like that.
So you could use a lot of organizations that are on Microsoft have SRS, and you could build something that perhaps helps you kick things off. And then once you start to show that by surfacing or keeping an eye on this information, it's helpful, you can then make the pitch to get an external resource like, you know, we have Clocktimizer there. I like it. But because it makes it really easy, you can set things up and then look for that automation. So I think that's really the key. Whatever you end up doing after you can lobby to get some technology resources behind it, really automate.
Talking about automation, right? And we also talked about finding the highest impact point where you can correct data, but that also doesn't that then eliminate jobs further down the line, if you're getting rid of so much manual work, don't you think that you're actually putting people out of a job?
So my personal philosophy is that I just don't create those jobs to begin with. So I'm always looking for opportunities to use technology and leverage technology because I don't think that I don't think it's economical for the firm. So I think it's just especially if we already have a platform that perhaps I can redeploy for another purpose of just being really creative as well. Already, that helps the bottom line. But also, I don't think it's good for the personal and professional development of those people who have those jobs because you're not really setting them up
to succeed. I'd rather create a job that allows people to work with creating and implementing those technology solutions, because that's something that I think is a skill that they can really use and build on for the rest of their career.
I like that. And well, there's one question we have to be quick because I think we have like one minute left, but what is your best practice with being proactive to make sure items do not fall through the cracks? Do you find emailing the attorney directly a good idea or using software to get your status update on these kind of things? I think that relates to talking about budgets or and similar similar things. What's your thought?
I use emailing attorneys very judiciously. I think that they can get fatigued if they get too many communications, but I will maybe get a lot of communication. So I do use software to give me status updates. And then there are some attorneys who will get direct status updates.
But then I also put in a little extra effort. If there's something that I think is particularly important that I don't want to fall through the cracks or where I think that there's added value in me synthesizing information from a bunch of different places.
And I do make that outreach. I would hesitate to say emailing an attorney specifically, just because not all attorneys like to interact via email. So that's one where I would take a page out of the attorney's book and really follow what they like. So I have some attorneys who they rather, if I just send them a quick email and say, Hi, do you have five minutes to talk about X? And they'd like to just talk through it as opposed to me to sending them an email?
Who likes emails, right? And actually talking about the future of work? Who likes running through excel sheets for hours, hours, hours, hours, days, weeks in a row? I don't think there are as many people and talk much more on the future of work, actually later today in a session with Richard Susskind, led by Hayley Altman. Stay on for that. It's going to be an amazing session and we're out of time. Thank you so much, Jessica, for joining me today. This has been an amazing opportunity to learn from you, and I would say just thank you. That was actually amazing.
I always love our chats. I'm looking forward to the next. And so do I take care?
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