Jeffrey Solomon of ELM Solutions explains how well-deployed data analytics can help in-house counsel better serve their companies by managing matters more strategically.

CCBJ: You have been working in the enterprise legal management space for a long time. Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Jeff Solomon: My background is in leading professional services and consulting groups, where I had regular customer contact – working with clients on how they operate and how to help their organization function better, as well as what others in the industry were doing. My focus was really product agnostic from a legal operations perspective. I’ve been in the legal technology space for almost 20 years.

In my newest role with ELM Solutions, I’m heading our Legal Analytics group, which gives me a primary focus on analytics, legal bill review, and expanding and integrating our use of artificial intelligence. Being a good business partner, contributing to a company’s business goals, demonstrating value and improving overall predictability are all aspects of corporate law where data and analytics can make a positive impact.

Given your consulting experience, what have you learned about the common goals and challenges of corporate legal departments?

Much has changed in the last 20 years. At the beginning of my time with ELM Solutions, in particular, we were talking to customers about e-billing and matter management, and providing technology support that was new to them. At this point it’s a different world. E-billing and matter management are table stakes. It goes much deeper than that now.

Law departments, like other companies, are being looked at to find cost savings. As they evolve and mature, the focus shifts to controlling costs, increasing efficiency and improving outcomes, and even beyond. At ELM Solutions, we talk about total spend management, which effectively leverages people, data and technology to meet challenges, and we have many experts and tools that can help with that.

This higher-level focus is about meeting those financial goals and ensuring compliance with billing guidelines while maintaining good, collaborative relationships with outside counsel. Legal professionals are looking to manage matters more strategically, using metrics to decide which firms to assign, what the right resources are, when the right time is, what the likely outcomes are, what the likely exposure is and so on.

These challenges are about law departments finding ways to be better partners in meeting the company’s business goals. It’s also important to them that they are able to demonstrate the additional value they are bringing to the company through all of these efforts.

What can data and metrics offer legal departments in overcoming these challenges?

Analytics and business intelligence drive better decision-making and benchmark data can provide perspective on industry standards. A law department may be satisfied with its current costs and outcomes based on how it has performed in the past and the progression it’s made over the years, but benchmarking can show that department if it’s actually doing well comparatively.

Capturing detailed matter and performance data, and then accessing that data using well-designed reporting and analytics, provides a basis for those decisions about resources and matter planning. It provides a more solid foundation than the hunches or general impressions of individuals.

Dashboards are a super friendly, visual way of delivering data, are easy to navigate, and allow the user to drill down into the data when something catches the eye. Our dashboard offerings are focused on making data actionable. The metrics that we look at related to legal bill review are focused on cost savings, and we can access that information using dashboards, through different metrics on adjustment and appeal percentages.

For example, a GC could visualize at a glance high risk areas that may need to be addressed, such as the spend within certain practice areas or matter types growing at a faster pace than others, or how other areas are trending over time, such as the rise of timekeeper rates over a period of time. Any of these may be caused by an outlier or be otherwise explainable, or they may be areas in which being alerted to them and taking action can help drive significant savings.

How can GCs and legal ops professionals ready themselves and their department for the future of legal operations?

First they’ll need buy-in and support from senior management so they can get access to the technology and people needed. If the head of legal operations or a legal ops admin is completely on board but the GC is not, then they’re going to run into challenges as they try to expand.

It’s important to use technology that supports the company’s goals, and to partner with a reliable provider who has the necessary knowledge and experience. Start working on a holistic program of analytics that answers the important questions for the right players at the right time.

Make sure that law firms are in compliance with billing guidelines and that you’re getting the most savings you can. With BillAnalyzer, ELM’s artificial intelligence assisted invoice review offering, the savings are real, and compliance drives improved data quality, which lets you start looking at things in ways you didn’t think were possible before.