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

In this piece, our partners at Digitory Legal share their thoughts on some themes relating to equitable work allocation emerging from The Legal Resource Management Report, 2021. You can hear more from Dave Cook, BigHand’s Managing Director of Resource Management, and Catherine Krow, Founder of Digitory Legal on the upcoming Webinar: How Mindful Staffing Drives DEI in Legal Resource Management, September 30th. You can register 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% North America, 42% UK, 25% 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 their 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 and 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 Digitory, 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 Founder Digitory Legal

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 meaningful difference in driving change across the legal industry.

“A huge thank you to Catherine and the team at Digitory for providing such insightful views from The Resource Management Report data. 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 absolutely share Digitory’s passion for supporting firms in such a critical area, using essential data and best practice structures to do so and we are delighted to be partners on this journey.” – Dave Cook, Managing Director of Resource Management, BigHand

About the Authors:

Catherine Krow is the founder of Digitory Legal, an award-winning cost analytics platform focused on bringing data-driven pricing and cost prediction to law.

Before founding Digitory Legal, Catherine practiced law at top-tier firms for 17 years, first at Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett and then at Orrick, where she was a litigation Partner. She is an accomplished trial lawyer with extensive experience representing global corporations in a wide variety of high-stakes litigation matters.

Catherine also is a frequent speaker & recognized thought leader on legal technology, spend management, and the use of artificial intelligence and data in law. For her pioneering work in legal technology, Catherine was named a 2018 Top Woman Entrepreneur In Cloud Innovation, a 2019 American Bar Association's "Women of Legal Technology List" honoree and included in the FastCase 50 Class of 2019 “honoring the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, & leaders”.

Aurelia Spivey is the Director Customer Success at Digitory Legal with 20+ years’ experience as an allied business professional in the legal industry

Aurelia is a lawyer who has focused her career on the business side of law. Aurelia honed her skills as an allied business professional at leading UK and US law firms, Allen & Overy, Reed Smith and SJ Berwin. Her work covered the corporate, equity capital markets, antitrust and private equity practice areas.  She is adept at managing international projects and has lead business development initiatives in the African, Indian and Nordic markets. Aurelia received her LLB (JD equivalent) from Rand Afrikaans University in South Africa. In London, she attended Kings College, earning her Postgraduate Diploma in EC Competition Law.