More Than a Slogan: Pitching to Clients with Legal Analytics
The Tampa-St. Petersburg Metropolitan Area made national headlines in 2015. The Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the United States Chamber of Commerce, announced that the region aired more television commercials from trial lawyers than any other area in the country. Greater Orlando trailed closely behind, turning “Morgan & Morgan, For the People” into one of the most widely heard advertising slogans in Central Florida.
“As someone who had his own law firm, I learned very early on that without clients, you had no business,” explains Cole Silver, Chief Client Officer at Blank Rome. We all know that operating a law firm involves more than just practicing law. There is also the business behind the law. That is, all of the labor involved in marketing and managing client relationships.
The business behind the law takes skill, as legal markets are generally soft, filled with more sellers than buyers. With more than 130,000 attorneys in the State of Florida, a law firm can only grow by capturing the market from their competitors. But not every legal practice is built for mass marketing campaigns—for highway billboards, for television appearances, for radio voiceovers. And that’s okay. These days, potential clients do not need to turn on the television to find the best lawyer suited for their particular case. There is another medium available: AI-powered legal analytics.
From Reputations to Ranks
In the past, clients learned to select attorneys based on recommendations from friends and family, from colleagues and associates. Others placed their trust in advertisements, online reviews, law school rankings, and office aesthetics. But what if there was another way?
AI-powered legal analytics is made possible by the rich streams of data produced by legal professionals every single day. At the federal level, this data resides on PACER, a web portal created in the late 1990s that grants users access to documents related to cases in federal bankruptcy, district, and appellate courts. The situation, however, is more complicated for state trial courts, as each county in each state authors its own procedures for collecting, cataloging, and publishing court documents. Luckily, legal tech platforms like Trellis Research, Ravel Law, and Premonition have found ways to manage these challenges at the state trial court level, curating a searchable archive of court records. With these archives, attorneys can learn the ins and outs of the people involved in each case. They can search through—and collect information about—virtually any variable of their choosing.
The threat of nuclear verdicts has prompted companies to place more emphasis on legal analytics when it comes to making decisions about the litigation process. In particular, the risks associated with selecting outside counsel are now being mitigated with data analytics. “What is changing more rapidly is how cases are being assessed and how outside counsel are being selected,” says Oscar Romero, General Counsel at Veristor Systems. “It is no longer relationship-driven, but who can most successfully handle this matter in this courthouse in front of this judge.”
Alerting the Crowd
It all begins with an alert. According to Christian Mammen, a partner at Hogan Lovells, most commercial litigators tap into new business opportunities by registering for alerts with legal tech platforms. These alerts notify them whenever a new case has been filed against a company in their field of expertise. As soon as one of these alerts rings, a deluge of calls floods the in-house legal teams of the affected companies. These calls often contain pitches, snippets of advice on venue and strategy as well as commitments to provide the best possible defense.
But what does it mean to tell a prospective client that your law firm is the best law firm? How can you convince a potential client that you have the experience, the expertise, and the skills needed to successfully handle their legal matters in a cost-effective manner? This hasn’t always been easy. There is no simple way for an attorney to quantify their relevant experience. Legal analytics, however, provides a place to start, helping lawyers pack their pitches with more than just vague references to ‘intuition’ or ‘experience’.
Replacing Slogans with Numbers
Legal tech companies are remapping the ways attorneys conduct legal research on their clients, on their competitors, and on themselves. These days, a typical pitch deck is filled with charts and graphs, easy-to-grasp visualizations that demonstrate how a law firm compares with its competitors. How many times has a law firm handled certain types of cases? How often do they settle right away? How long do their cases typically last? How often have they appeared in front of a particular judge? All these questions can be answered with exact numbers, precise figures that have been culled from thousands of data points from court dockets, documents, and rulings.
This is what prospective clients want. They want metrics, hard data that illustrate how one law firm compares to another. “For me, a meeting with a firm not using any [legal analytics] tools is kind of a disqualifier,” begins Damon Hart, Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Litigation at Liberty Mutual. “No matter how great a firm is, they are working with a small dataset, and if they are not using the tools, it is unlikely I would add them.”
Douglas Lancet, Managing Director of Marketing and Business Development at Robins Kaplan, echoes these sentiments. According to Lancet, a successful pitch differentiates you from the competition. Clients want to see that you have handled “similar cases with the same allegations involving the same technology or product [or] similar underlying facts.” Thus, law firms need to be adaptable in the way they pitch to prospective clients, matching the metrics they include to the performance indicators valued by the companies with which they seek to work.
Not only that, but prospective clients are performing their own legal analytics as well. Liberty Mutual, for example, uses data analytics to choose which law firms to use for specific matters in specific jurisdictions. It even goes further, identifying the individual attorneys it would like to work on those matters. “It is not that we are eschewing traditional methods of getting information, we are using it to enhance what we hear from outside counsel and the judgment and experience of the lawyers,” concludes Hart.
The Business of the Law
The challenge with all litigation is the fact that nobody can guarantee the outcome of a legal action. AI-powered legal analytics and predictive modeling techniques will never be able to predict the future. They can, however, provide a strategic rationale for how civil litigators and their clients can proceed in the present. In this way, the business of the law is not too different from any other kind of business, where every single decision is made with data-driven insights, insights that could never be done justice in a mass-market television advertisement.
By Nicole Clark
CEO and co-founder of Trellis Research
Business litigation and labor and employment attorney
Trellis is an AI-powered legal research and analytics platform that gives state court litigators a
competitive advantage by making trial court rulings searchable, and providing insights into the
patterns and tendencies of your opposing counsel, and your state court judges.
Reader Perk: Trellis is providing Tampa Bay Trial Lawyers Association readers with complimentary 14-day access to its platform. Click here to start your free trial today.