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Tech Tip

Big Data, Little Data: It’s All Useful Data

By Jim Calloway

In our Friday Five “Tech Tips: Small, Powerful Ways to Use Data in Your Law Firm,” practice management technology experts recently weighed in on how small law firms can use data in a meaningful way. Oklahoma Bar Association practice advisor Jim Calloway has another great tip: Automate your documents so you can collect and reuse all that good data. 

Whether the discussion is on data analytics, data management or data backup, I sometimes avoid using the actual term “data” when talking to lawyers. “Client information” is a less intimidating term.

That said, I don’t doubt that big data is changing the landscape of decision making right now, and that will increase in the future. But many law firms don’t even capture their own business data in any meaningful way. Certainly, they are capturing financial data. And they are often capturing lawyer productivity data, too. Everyone wants to be paid and that data is how bonuses, raises, partner compensation, advancement to partnership and similar things are determined.

But less common are those law firms that look at items like the average cost of a matter, how long the average file takes to resolve and other metrics that will be so valuable as firms continue their slow march toward fixed-fee pricing.

Tip: Automate Client Intake and Matter Information Sheets

I urge lawyers to implement automated document assembly methods. So here is a quick tip on preserving a small amount of routine data that will start paying dividends almost immediately. We think of automating documents like pleadings, contracts and other legal work product. How about starting by automating your client intake and matter information sheet?

This works even if you are still taking those notes on a legal pad or via a paper form. Assign someone to enter all of that information into your document assembly program to generate a nice document with all of the information on the client and matter. You can use different size fonts to emphasize items that need quick reference like the client’s name, contact information or client representative’s name. You can then print this to PDF if you are using digital files, or on paper if you use paper files.

There’s Data in Those Forms

The big payoff is that all of the practice management programs or standalone document assembly tools have a method of saving that information for later use. So the first time someone wants to draft a letter or document to the new client, the basic information has already been entered. That not only makes it a quicker task, it provides a place to save any new data about the matter that was required for the new document.

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calloway Jim Calloway

Jim Calloway is Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program. He is a co-author of the ABA books “How Good Lawyers Survive Bad Times” and “Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour: Strategies That Work.” Jim blogs at Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips and co-produces the podcast The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. Follow him @JimCalloway.

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