Does your Firm Suffer from AHP (the Ad Hoc Problem) in its Use of Data?

Topics: Business Development & Marketing Blog Posts, Client Relations, Corporate Legal, Data Analytics, Efficiency, Law Firm Profitability, Law Firms, Midsize Law Firms Blog Posts

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Data scavenger hunts are a common practice for business development teams in law firms as they pull together information on firm expertise. These missions are spur-of-the-moment, strenuous and require business development teams to gather information from a variety of systems. This information is not limited to software and spreadsheets — in fact, the most critical expertise data often lies in a lawyer’s head.

Frequently data gathering efforts involve mass e-mails with a subject line “has anyone worked with [fill in obscure experience you seek]” as well as a collection of spreadsheets that require a serious effort from analysts to get the data to talk. Cleansing the data, once collected, can be 80% of the journey. Even when the data gathering process is more proactive, it merely implies that business development analysts are running around with clip boards or sending email templates to see what data they can conjure and who will cooperate.

Marketing and business development projects are no small feat, considering the mountain that analysts often have to climb in order to bring the information together under significant time constraints. Combine this with messy data resulting from a lack of consistency in the type of information collected, varying classifications of data across departments, as well as a low response rate, and analysts are exhausted before the real fun even begins. The triumph of gathering this data places a large burden on analysts who are trapped in a manual ad-hoc process.

The modern law firm must enable its business development efforts with data, not slow them down.

Once analysts have overcome the hurdle of gathering the data, the potential use cases for experience-related data are significant. From responding to request for proposals (RFPs) and preparing pitches to delivering content for websites, public relations campaigns, targeted marketing and lawyer bios — experience data can be re-purposed across multiple marketing and business development vehicles. These efforts all equate to revenue growth by enabling the firm to quickly respond to the “right” opportunities and win more business through existing clients by anticipating those clients’ needs.

It doesn’t stop there: Experience data is useful in other strategic areas — including pricing, resource and matter management — all currently hot topics within the legal industry and reliant on organized and consistent data gathered within law firms. The potential return on investment (ROI) is compelling. However, the challenges in data capture and examination don’t allow for much time beyond the inquiry to assess and analyze the data to extract all its potential.

This phenomenon is called the “ad-hoc problem” and is central to the pain that marketing and business development teams face as they strive to be proactive and drive revenue growth. Not having the information they need, when they need it equates to inefficiencies that impact the bottom line. Instead, marketing and business development teams need to be empowered by information to provide actionable insight; and gathering the information should not get in the way.


The modern law firm must enable its business development efforts with data, not slow them down. Looking forward, firms must innovate in methods of data capture by automating the process and gathering information at key points in the lifecycle of matters, rather than disrupting lawyers as they work. Instead of requiring lawyers to go through the tedious process of in-putting “post mortem” data, there should be an automated process that collects the most relevant data in real-time, as work is performed (for example, relevant data captured might include outcomes in litigation matters and deal size for M&A.)

A proactive approach to data collection helps to ensure information is complete, catalogued and digitized. Add the integration of internal and external systems and auto-detection driven by machine learning to surface other pertinent information from communications, document management systems and third-party sources, and you’ve got a well-rounded data set.

Having a robust data set in one place with structure and consistency is crucial to unlocking insights for key strategic initiatives. The use cases listed above are only the beginning. Imagine adding search capabilities and analytics reports tied to triggers that demand action… the opportunities are endless.