In the tech world, data is a hot topic these days. You hear about it all the time. But in legal, the topic of data rarely comes up, unless it’s some security breach or privacy issue. In typical legal industry fashion, we are behind the times when it comes to leveraging data for business purposes. In this post, we explain the notion of data quality, explain how to improve law firm data quality, and examine the importance of these concepts to running a successful law practice.
What Is Data Quality?
Data in itself isn’t really valuable unless it can be utilized, and in order to be utilized, it must be quality data. According to Gartner, data quality can be assessed using the following criteria:
- Existence (does an organization have data at all?)
- Validity (are the values of the data acceptable?)
- Consistency (does data that exists in multiple locations always have the same value?)
- Integrity (are the relationships between data sets correct?)
- Accuracy (does the data accurately describe the object it is meant to model?)
- Relevance (is the data appropriate to support business objectives?)
In other words, in order for data to be useful, you need to capture the right kind of data, structure it properly, and do it consistently.
Many Law Firms Have Low Quality Data
Many law firms are storing very little data at all. The only data they have might just be an Excel spreadsheet of contacts that hasn’t been updated for a while, or the countless emails in their inbox. For these firms, the actual existence of data is in question.
Others may have more data, but that data is scattered about through a multitude of different software programs, spreadsheets, and databases that aren’t updated regularly. This data lacks consistency, and may not be accurate or relevant to business objectives.
Firms that are ahead of the curve are using a cloud based case management system to create more structure around their data. These systems can store data about contacts, matters, bills, notes, and files. This data exists, and it should be valid and relevant as long as the case management software is used appropriately and updated regularly.
Using a case management system is definitely a step in the right direction, but even firms who are using software to run their practices could probably get more value from their data than they are currently.
With competition getting increasingly fierce in the legal market, leveraging data to make better decisions will give you a significant leg up on competitors. Below are some examples of why data is so important, and suggestions for how law firms can strive to improve the quality of their data.
Why Having High Quality Law Firm Data Is So Important
1. More Efficient Operations
- Quality data is important for your operational efficiency. Consider the amount of time it would take to search your contact database for a client’s birthday using software, vs. flipping through a paper file to locate an intake form where the client provided their date of birth. As you can imagine, having data readily accessible can make a world of difference when it comes to productivity.
2. Reducing Malpractice Concerns
- Bad data can expose you to an increased risk of malpractice claims. If you don’t have the right information, or you have inconsistencies, this can lead to mistakes which can be very costly. The more organized your data is, the less error prone you will be.
3. Producing KPIs and Reports
- Data can be used to gain perspective on the health of your business. You can leverage your data to generate important KPIs (key performance indicators), such as revenue per client, client acquisition cost, lifetime value of a client, etc. You can compare these numbers over time to assess your ongoing performance and make sure you are achieving your business goals.
4. Better Opportunities for Growth
- Data can open your eyes to insights you would never have seen otherwise. You might find out that one particular practice area is far more profitable than others, or that a certain employee is not keeping up to par, or that a certain marketing channel is not producing any viable clients. These insights can inform you, help you adjust course and adapt your strategy, and open up greater opportunities for success.
How To Produce Higher Quality Data
Producing higher quality data will require some work, and possibly some restructuring of business processes and adoption of more software solutions. But your future success is well worth the small investment of time and money now.
Collect As Much Data As Possible
Storing files and contact info is useful, but ideally, you should be capturing data about everything you do, not just your clients.
This would include things related to your marketing funnel, such as expenses, lead sources, number of leads captured, conversion rate, time to convert, reasons for not converting, etc. It might also include data on employee productivity, feedback from clients, industry trends, and anything else that could be relevant to your business goals.
Create Well-Defined Data Points
Technically, a file uploaded to a cloud storage system is “data,” but it isn’t in an easily usable format. To make your data as useful as possible, it should be stored in database fields.
Most modern cloud software has the ability to create “custom fields” to track important data points. This gives you a lot of flexibility because you can structure your database however you see fit, and capture whatever data is most important to you.
Because the data is nicely organized in database fields, you have easily accessible data points which you can search, manipulate in Excel, run a report on, or use for any other business purpose.
Create Consistent, Repeatable Business Processes
Perhaps the most important change you can make to improve the quality of your data is to implement good processes. It’s critical that all staff members understand what data is needed, how to enter or capture the data, when and where to store it, and why the data is important.
The more systematic your operations are, the easier it will be to enforce these data rules across your organization because each person will have a better understanding of what their role is in regards to the data.
Leveraging data is incredibly important in today’s business world. But data is only useful if it is also high quality, meaning that it exists, and that it is consistent, accurate, and relevant to business objectives.
Whether you are currently collecting no data, or you have a wealth of data across multiple software systems, you can always strive to improve data quality. Doing so can help improve your productivity, reduce your liability, and open up new opportunities for business growth in the future.