Getting the Right Data From Big Data: Improve Legal Operations and Management

Data, in its raw form, can be a source of true facts; the interpretation and presentation of data allow people to put their agenda across.

Over the years, legal teams will have built up a significant amount of data (through case management systems, document management systems, e-billing solutions, risk registers, law firm reports, emails, legal advice, etc.), which is an extremely valuable but often underrated asset. Not only can legal data support strategic planning and trend analysis, but it is also an invaluable tool for:

  • Managing external law firms.
  • Managing internal resources.
  • Understanding and supporting your business.
  • Managing legal risk.
  • Managing legal department finances.

Furthermore, the data forms a key part of the company’s knowledge management, which remains available irrespective of changes in the workforce.

The challenge is what you do with this information, how you keep it clean, and how you pull it together and present it. Some of the critical things to consider are:


You will likely have many stakeholders wanting reports from the legal data, each wanting to use it for a different purpose. These may include:

  • General Counsel will want to use the data to set the strategic direction of the legal function.
  • Team leaders will probably use volumetric data to show and manage resource demands and promote their teams.
  • Team administrators will look to make sure their team data is accurate and up to date.
  • Procurement will need to support legal spend within the organization.
  • Finance / Tax will be able to ensure (amongst other things) that provisions are adequate, and that VAT is correctly applied/recovered.
  • Risk will need to better understand the changes in the risk profile and to support any reporting to regulatory bodies.


Presenting the information clearly and concisely that gets the message across is a challenge, as different stakeholders will often want the same data presented in different formats. Producing a range of reports is both time-consuming and a drain on resources. Online dashboards can make it easier for different stakeholders to slice the data to suit their needs. While each option has its benefits and challenges, you will likely want to work with both reports and dashboards.

Keeping the data clean is essential so that reports and dashboards show accurate and consistent data. Despite best efforts, manual input will inevitably lead to mistakes because of typos or missed fields. A system like Onit’s European legal spend management solution BusyLamp automates invoice review, so data is input consistently. Data validation rules, reporting, and task reminders help legal operations managers maintain data cleanliness. Many Onit clients use data gap reports to highlight and complete missing data. Doing this regularly ensures it is a small, everyday task rather than becoming an unwieldy data clean-up project.


Legal department data can help you to:

1. Manage your strategy. This may include areas such as:

  • Understanding and prioritizing the organization’s legal demand and spend.
  • Changes in the team’s performance by using KPIs.
  • What cost savings have been / can be, such as;
    • Outsourcing vs. doing it in-house.
    • Removing non-essential tasks.
  • Understanding your legal team’s risk profile and internal controls by using KPIs.

2. Manage your external law firms through:

  • Greater transparency of activity and spend, which, in turn, will help future discussions with firms, especially during panel reviews.
  • Monitoring law firm performance which will help law firm reviews.
  • Ensuring prompt payment of bills which may support faster-paying discounts discussions with firms.

3. Manage internal resources:

  • Easily identifying peaks and troughs in work, allowing for better resource planning and allocation (Product design/review, property management, supplier contract renewal, key stages in litigation, regulatory projects, etc.).
  • Understanding the impact of previous business initiatives will help prepare the department for future initiatives.

4. Understand and support your business. For example:

  • Awareness of change in the volume of a particular type of work will help ensure you:
    • Have the proper legal support available (either in-house or through external firms).
    • Develop training needs for your business contacts and the lawyers.
  • Visibility of the contracts that will support risk management, especially if there is a change in the legal or regulatory landscape or an economic downturn.
  • Support product development by learning from previous iterations.

5. Manage legal risk

  • Change in volumes of a particular type of work or within a business area will help identify emerging risks. These could include:
    • Frequent changes to standard terms and conditions could indicate that your documents are not keeping up with changes in the market.
    • Local changes to standard terms and conditions could indicate a lack of awareness or understanding of the documentation.
  • Can help identify new training needs.

6. Manage legal department finances.

  • Greater clarity on how much it costs per matter (internal vs. external).
  • Avoid paying for duplicate advice.
  • Drive costs down with external firms.

There are many business benefits to integrating your systems and making sense of the legal data that resides within them. Work out your goals and which of the above areas aligns with helping you achieve those core goals, then work backward to identify the data points that will help you have the visibility or measurements you need. Finally, you can create the reports and dashboards you and your stakeholders need.

Request a demo of BusyLamp eBilling.Space today and see our RFP functionality for yourself.

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