What does it mean to be a data-driven law firm?

At CLARK.LAW, we pride ourselves on being a “data-driven” law firm. The use of data in legal practice is a foreign concept

for most lawyers, but it is gaining popularity. Leading edge firms are utilizing data to improve efficiency, ensure consistency, control costs, more accurately predict case values and outcomes, and better serve their clients. Here are four examples of how we use data in our business:

  1. Making better contract drafting decisions.  Analytical tools combined with publicly available databases have generated data sets that include millions of contract terms and court decisions. By analyzing data from business disputes, we know what contract language is most likely to be effective in protecting our clients’ interests.
  2. Predicting the likelihood of overcoming a trademark refusal. The US Patent and Trademark Office maintains a publicly searchable trademark database. Hundreds of thousands of trademark applications are filed each year in the US alone. By analyzing not only the aggregated data, but also data that is specific to each trademark examiner, we can make more reliable decisions about what arguments to make (or whether to bother arguing at all).
  3. Setting our fees. How do most law firms set their fees? The most common method is taking whatever the hourly rates were from the previous year and raising them by a few percentage points. At CLARK.LAW we spent dozens of hours analyzing the amount of time it takes us to do certain tasks and what the optimal personnel allocation is for them. We set our fixed fee prices based on that data, and discovered something interesting. While many of our fixed fees are around market price for similarly experienced lawyers, others were dramatically lower.
  4. Getting deals closed faster.  Business transactions such as mergers and asset purchases typically involve a considerable amount of negotiation and thousands of pages of documents. Data can’t make contentious or unreasonable parties suddenly play nice, but it can streamline the document preparation process.  By extracting data from term sheets for example, document generation tools and language parsing algorithms can cut down drafting time while ensuring consistency across dozens of different documents.

Technological advances are often misunderstood to be a threat to lawyers and law firms. We take the opposite view. Data is great. Smart, experienced legal professionals are great. Together they can be something really special. Data augments our judgement; it doesn’t replace it.

There is no substitute for experience, but lawyers rely far too often on hunches, anecdotes, and guessing. Rather than warehousing our old client files, we’re mining them for valuable insights and ways we can improve our clients’ experience and outcomes. That’s what being data-driven means to us.