Moneyball for lawyers
When it comes to optimizing your practice, do you trust your gut? Don't. If you aren't using data to measure what works and what doesn't, you can't be sure you're winning, says Jeffrey S. Krause, a partner at law-office management consulting firm Affinity.
The movie Moneyball features a scene during which a group of scouts for the Oakland Athletics sit around a table babbling about which players they think have the most potential for their team, citing characteristics like "he's got a strong jaw" and "he's got an ugly girlfriend, which means he lacks confidence."
The team's general manager, Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), admonishes the grizzled assemblage about the inherent imprecision of their old-school metrics and turns instead to a young whiz-kid well versed in computers, who can tell him statistics like which players get on base the most, and thus score the most runs and help the team win. The team ends up riding a late-season 20-game winning streak to a playoff berth, despite having a lost three star players during the offseason.
Krause believes that attorneys can make similar use of metrics to score the most clients and overall work and help their firms win. "When you're looking at a baseball player, saying that somebody has potential, well have they realized that potential?" Krause says. "He seems to have speed; well, if that speed isn't translating into an extra base here or there, what good is that speed?
For example, tracking numbers of clients over time will uncover patterns and help attorneys and firms come up with reasons (or excuses) why they're going up or down, Krause says. "It's usually reasons for going up and excuses for going down," he says wryly. "This isn't one of those things where at the end of the year, you run a report and compare it to next year. That's valuable, but the real story is how it's growing month to month, or week to week. Year to year, it's too late to do anything about it."
Your practice is already generating valuable Moneyball data: find out how to use it in the April Illinois Bar Journal.