Aligning Data Analytics, DEI Priorities and Distribution of Work to Drive Change in the Legal Industry

In this piece, we share our thoughts on some themes relating to equitable work allocation emerging from The Legal Resource Management Report, 2021. Learn more from Dave Cook, BigHand’s Managing Director of Resource Management, and Catherine Krow, Managing Director of Diversity and Impact Analytics, in the Webinar, How to Use Mindful Staffing and Resources Management to Drive DEI. You can watch the webinar here.

Done right, effective resource management can improve profitability, enhance client service, and enable firms to deliver on their DEI goals”  The Legal Resource Management Report, 2021

Returning to work in a hybrid model has forced law firms to accelerate the emphasis on work allocation with 98% of firms in North America reporting that they are seriously reviewing their resourcing processes. This report further highlights both the importance and the challenges of equitable work allocation. The paradoxical themes emerging from the survey is that while firms remain committed to DEI and clients have increasing DEI expectations, firms still remain challenged by the availability of any or accurate data on how work is being allocated.

Access to data is a problem, with too many firms still constrained by the lack of trusted, available information to support intelligent resource management…” The Legal Resource Management Report, 2021

The report reminds us of the continued data challenges facing law firms with only 41% of North America, 42% of the UK, and 25% of Asia Pacific firms having information about the work being allocated by partners to associates. This highlights one of the continued challenges still facing law firms – the ability to effectively analyze and use their data for decision-making. We have seen similar challenges in billing data as identified in resourcing data – the collection process is inconsistent; data hygiene is problematic and “real-time” information is not readily available.

However, firms that invested in technology and change management processes have been able to increase the quality of their billing and the ability to use this data for strategic pricing decisions. Similarly, as firms make the implementation of resource management technology a strategic priority, we should see an impact on equitable work allocation. With quality data firms will have insight into the work that their diverse attorneys are doing.

“Firms need to implement a balanced, impartial approach to resourcing that ensures equitable allocation of opportunities across the board.” The Legal Resource Management Report, 2021

Firms remain committed to improving DEI strategies, the survey reports that 70% of firms say DEI agendas impact how they report matters. But there are obstacles to delivering on this commitment, specifically partners picking resources based on personal preferences remains a challenge for 36% of firms alongside the data visibility issues already outlined. The gap between the commitment to diversity, individual implicit bias and access to quality data makes a strong case for the essential role of work allocation tools that deliver transparency.

Data integrity is the key to unlocking insight into work allocation. As firms start refining work allocation process and adopt tools that enable a more holistic approach to analyzing data, they will need to focus on the quality of work being allocated to diverse lawyers. We know from our own data analytics that not all work provides career-advancing opportunities, and firms need insight into the strategic, success-building work versus administrative duties.

“…many clients’ own DEI policies include an expectation that its partners, particularly their outside counsel, staff all projects with diversity in mind.” The Legal Resource Management Report 2021

At BigHand, we are seeing clients partnering with firms on what we call “mindful staffing” programs. Mindful staffing means the DEI is baked into matter staffing from the outset. Clients are asking law firms to consider equitable resourcing across the lifetime of a matter ensuring that the staffing plan includes allocating client-facing and career-advancing work to diverse attorneys. This approach aims to challenge implicit bias in work allocation and provide growth opportunities for diverse attorneys. We will share further insights into mindful staffing in the upcoming webinar. 

“Actionable diversity data enables law firms to identify gaps in representation and shines a light on firms that are putting their diversity commitments into action.” Catherine Krow Managing Director of Diversity and Impact Analytics at BigHand

The legal industry should be encouraged by the findings in this survey. Firms and clients are making DEI a priority which creates opportunities to partner on mindful staffing programs. The renewed focus on data quality and effective change management are foundational steps towards delivering data-driven diversity initiatives that will make a meaningful difference in driving change across the legal industry.

“The mindful staffing programs and approaches are such an important way of using data and structures to drive real lasting change for law firms and their diverse attorneys as they push for equitable allocation of work. We have a passion for supporting firms in such a critical area, using essential data and best practice structures to do so.” – Dave Cook, Managing Director of Resource Management, BigHand

About BigHand Impact Analytics

BigHand Impact Analytics combines strategic advice and change management expertise with AI-enabled data analytics to transform legal billing data into DEI success. The solution allows firms to identify opportunities for career advancing work, supports DEI initiatives, and focuses on areas where time recording needs to be improved - ultimately creating a smoother billing and collection process, with better data insights. 

BigHand Impact Analytics