Learn to manage the data your law firm already creates to make better business and strategic decisions. Zack talks with Joyce Brafford, from CosmoLex, about how internal analytics can drive your marketing decisions, firm growth, and processes.
Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered, and future-oriented small law firms through community, content, and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you The Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast hosts
Zack Glaser (00:35):
Hey y’all, it’s Zack, and this is episode 465 of the Lawyerist Podcast. Today we have a sponsored episode on, or as I like to say, doing more than just guesstimating. Once again, I’ve got Joyce Braford from CosmoLex with me, and she’s going to help us understand some of the ways we can use our firm data better. Welcome, Joyce.
Joyce Bradford (00:54):
Well, hi Zack. How are you?
Zack Glaser (00:55):
I’m good. I’m good. I’m pumped and ready to learn from the things that we’ve got hidden in our firms. That’s how I kind of think of it. It was always hidden in my law office.
Joyce Bradford (01:07):
Yeah, there, it’s just kind of that data that no one knows how to get to. And when you find it, what do you do with it?
Zack Glaser (01:16):
Yeah, yeah. Start us off. What do we do with it? But I guess, I don’t know, how do we find it? How do I get started with any of this? I mean, it’s
Joyce Bradford (01:24):
Scary. Yeah, no, it’s scary. It’s scary. So here’s how I like to think about this. So we’ve done podcasts together, and Zack, I think by now that I put things in buckets, I like to have lists of things, so it really helps me clarify what I’m doing. I try to be pretty goal-oriented, which makes a lot of sense since we’re having a data-driven conversation here, right? So I tend to put the idea of analytics into two buckets. So first and foremost, I just want to put big umbrella over all of this. And for those of you out in podcast land, you can’t see me talking with my hands, but I really am. I just made an umbrella with my hands.
Zack Glaser (02:03):
We’ll put that in the show notes.
Joyce Bradford (02:06):
Put that in the show notes, please. The analytics that you used to drive your firm, really it’s just that data behind your everyday interactions with your clients, with your website, with your emails, with your money. It’s just data to say, how did one statistic change from one moment to the next moment? And it’s just a lot. So how do we think about this? And I kind of think of strategic analytics versus process analytics. And for me, my strategic analytics are things that are external. What’s going to help me understand which cases are going to have a higher likelihood of success? What’s going to help me understand how I can have more profitable practice areas based on data in firms and the market generally? How can I understand which practice areas are underserved so I can either reach them or charge a premium for services that, again, market driven things. And I contrast that with process driven analytics, which are gaps in my own processes or understanding which of my specific clients are my most profitable clients, or understanding where my roadblocks are and getting a matter from intake to resolution, finding my areas of friction. So when I think about analytics, I kind of think about them in those two big overarching categories or my two analytics buckets.
Zack Glaser (03:29):
So the first bucket, that strategy bucket is kind of like when I’m doing my SWOT analysis or something like that, and I’m saying, where am I going? Where am I going to guide my firm? And we’re getting that probably a lot of times from QuickBooks, if at all. And then that second bucket is kind of how can I, being the resident automator at Lawyerist, I think, how can I automate things? Where are the automation places? And so having an idea of how quickly things are moving, who’s doing things and more on a granular scale. I like that. And I think that gives us a good place to set and start from here.
Joyce Bradford (04:08):
Okay, well, I think that you’re probably right and you got to start somewhere. So let’s talk about that automation because hard to look at my law firm, my automate my non-automated law firm and say, what the heck am I supposed to do to increase my total bandwidth? How am I going to automate things? One, how would I do it? Why would I do it? And what pieces am I going to automate? And all of that. What should be an analytics driven decision, right? Yeah. So which analytics do you look at to determine what you should automate? Again, there’s some things that you should automate and it’s going to help you no matter what you’re doing, but understanding what’s going to get your matters from that opening into the next various stages more quickly. Those are the types of things that we should automate if we can.
So let’s talk about some examples of automation that are going to help us reduce the friction points and increase our total bandwidth here. Number one is when you open a matter, you need to immediately put a workflow on top of it. I don’t want to have to sit and think about what tasks I’m going to need to accomplish. And so what needs to happen with that workflow? One, it needs to be practice area specific. It needs to have my tasks with dates assigned to them. Those tasks need to be assigned to individual users or user groups, and there needs to be a level of accountability or a way that I can make sure that each one of those tasks are done. One of the things that we find pretty consistently when we’re looking at law firms that are trying to be more efficient is they just don’t know how long it takes to go from talking to a prospective client to getting them to resolution.
And honestly, they haven’t even defined what the various phases are in between. They know that they do intake, they know that they do discovery, they know that they do gathering witness statements and litigation prep. They know that they do some type of mediation where it’s necessary. They know that they go through a negotiation period, but they don’t have any of that on paper. So you can automate your steps, but let’s back that out a little bit. Before you even do that, you need to figure out what the heck you’re doing in your firm, right? And this is the hardest part of the analytics question, isn’t it? Yeah. How much time should you spend on this?
Zack Glaser (06:27):
Yes. Yeah, how much time should you spend on this? But then I think, what do I even start tracking? You go into your platform, your practice management platform, you say, well, what do I need to look at in order to figure out how long it takes? Well, it seems to take a couple phases because a lot of times you go, well, this is what I’d like to look at, but I’m not keeping track of that information. I’d like to know how long it takes for a case to get from phase one to phase two. But I don’t even have phases written
Joyce Bradford (06:56):
Out right now, and I think that this is why most people don’t use analytics, because like I said, we know that there is a process, there is a workflow to get from intake to resolution, but we just don’t take the time to write it out. So let’s help listeners for a sec here. So if I’m trying to figure out what the heck I’m doing in my firm and trying to figure out what I need to be tracking, let’s start at the very beginning. I want to track when did this matter open my open date? That sounds so basic, right? But it’s so a crucial time for so many folks from understanding when you need to get something filed to understanding how long it takes you to get something to the resolution point to understanding when somebody needs to pay you. There’s a lot of information that you’re going to glean just from that one date.
Beyond that, you need to figure out how long it should take someone to go through intake. When should they actually become a client? When should you have a fee agreement on file and a scope of representation? And then you need to define all the remaining phases beyond all of those pieces and just your process workflow. You need to be tracking where did this client come from? Was there a particular marketing activity that got this client to you? Because at the end of the day, I want you to be able to say where my clients came from and which of those clients are most profitable. I want to be able to track my particular marketing activity to closed paid matters so I can see where I need to be investing my firm’s time. So those are kind of just my big beginning opening things. But as I’m actually going through my matter, I also need to be tracking my productivity of my individual performers within my firm. I need to be tracking how quickly someone’s replying to my emails if they’re clients, so I can understand if they’re going to continue to pay me, if they’re going to what I need in order to meet my deadlines. I could go on and list probably 75 other analytics points, but I think we kind need to narrow that discussion a bit.
Zack Glaser (08:58):
Well, yeah, but it seems like if you just enter into this and you say, what do I need to be tracking? It seems like time. And I know that seems very basic for lawyers or yes, of course lawyers track time, but we’re talking about time from point A to point B for the most part. And that’s a relatively simple thing to do. So in order to track that time, we have to have something that can house the date and then house the date in its relationship to a phase state of your case. And that’s a pretty basic thing to be able to do for the most part. And so kind of jumping in and having that be one that’s in that second bucket, I think, of process data. And from that, it seems like we’d be able to glean, alright, where are we broadly going slow, going quickly, not taking enough time. But then we also have how much time? So we’ve got how long did it take our office? And then it’s how much effort did it take our office? How many hours did it take somebody to put into this? And so those are two pieces that can give you a lot of information provided you actually have the places that you can track that in your database and your practice management software. Obviously CosmoLex does that.
Joyce Bradford (10:24):
Zack Glaser (10:26):
Otherwise we wouldn’t be here. And CosmoLex does that and is able to do that.
Joyce Bradford (10:29):
Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here.
Zack Glaser (10:31):
But I think the other side though is, okay, so I’m starting to track this. How do I get this information? Like running reports. I was trying to run a report in HubSpot today, and I’m apparently terrible at running reports. How do I get that information out and how do I determine, well, what are the data points that I want to see against each other? I can get you an Excel spreadsheet that can house information, but it’s still not a great practice management solution because we’re not going to be able to get the information out.
Joyce Bradford (11:02):
So there are systems, CosmoLex being one of them that’s going to allow you to track that data. Now, any good system, a system that is worth its salt. And one of the reasons why I work for the CosmoLex team and the profit self team largely is because they’re as a family of brands, so good at tracking this data. So you don’t have to manually put it in. And that’s the trick here, folks. All of this data matters, and I think that it’s important to know what you need to be tracking so you can look at the right reports, but in terms of actually getting it into and out of your system, that piece needs to be as just AI driven behind the scenes automatically captured. I don’t want you to have to enter more than you ever want to. So when I’m looking at the report in cos I’m looking at things definitely like profit loss, that guys come on, that’s pretty straightforward.
I’m also looking at my billable time versus my collected fees. Where’s my gap there? I’m looking at my AR and my outstanding AR for my 30, 60, 90 reports even further than that if I need to, I’m looking at my productivity reports for myself and for my firm. I’m looking at my tasks. So all of this, I don’t have to build reports in CosmoLex export, it’s just not necessary. And then beyond that, having a system that’s just going to overlay workflows on whatever you’re doing is going to allow you to put that rubric of success on top of your matter. So you can track what phase am I in, what stage am I in, how successful am I in bringing this to a close? And I don’t have to add 50 tasks to a matter, I have to add one workflow and then it’s just there. So X is one solution that’s going to do that for me.
It’s going to collect all my data, it’s going to run the reports without me having to be some techno wizard. And Zack, I’ve run reports at HubSpot too. You have to be a magician to figure it out. I love HubSpot, but you have to be a magician to figure it out. But these are just, I’m going to go in and they’re already there and they’re designed for lawyers. And so it’s pretty great. CosmoLex honestly is just a lot of fun, did demo every single day, and I really enjoy it. But I would be remiss if I also didn’t tell you about Rocket matter and the Kanban boards that are available in rocket matter. So one of my favorite things in Rocket Matter is my ability to just add a glance, see one big Kanban, I see a chart. Where are all my matters in this practice area?
What phase are they in right now? And it’s all this analytics in a very visual sense that I can just boom, see and with colors and with cards in the right columns. And of course my phases are defined by Collins on the scan chart. I can just, this is where I’m, this is what needs to be moved. This is what’s been there too long. And there are all sorts of visual cues to get me where I need to go. But I mean, just the whole profits, whole family is built on this idea that it’s really hard to be a good business person and a good lawyer at the same time. So you be a good lawyer and we’ll take care of the rest of it for you.
Zack Glaser (14:07):
Right? I like that. It is difficult to even to enter into what we started this conversation with, what am I going to track? And then it’s what am I going to do with that? How am I going to get that information? And all I really want to do is practice law,
Joyce Bradford (14:23):
Right? Yeah. Honestly, why are we even doing all of this? I mean, yes, we want to practice, but at the end of the day, we have to be profitable. And so when you start talking about business analytics, everyone just immediately starts talking about profit. Yeah, that’s part of it. That’s definitely part of it. But there’s also this idea of client service and there’s this idea of security that’s also just baked into the fabric of how we can use analytics on our law firm. So if I’m looking at just my law firm’s analytics, forget doing a big market analysis because you could write an entire thesis on that. But if I just look at my, and they do, but if I just look at my law firm and I say, okay, what type of clients do I have? Let me look at my practice areas. Let me look at my types of clients that I have.
Who do I have the most successful outcomes for? And if I see a practice area where I have less successful outcomes, I have the option of just pulling that practice area, or I can use that data and I can become a more effective practitioner in that area. And sometimes that’s about leveraging technology and assisting your clients in getting you the documentation that’s necessary for them to better establish their case or to get a signature more quickly or to have a more successful negotiation. Maybe it’s that piece or maybe I didn’t even realize that my success rate in a particular practice area is as bad as it is. Let me go take some c l e, right? Let me educate myself. So there’s lots of ways to use the data. I do think that it’s important to have a separate conversation or dig into in this conversation with more specificity the security aspect that I think most law firms tend to ignore. And when we talk about analytics,
Zack Glaser (16:19):
Well, so that obviously begs the question which you kind of lead me to, is what about the security with these analytics?
Joyce Bradford (16:27):
So when we think about all of the data that we’re capturing for our law firm, by the very nature of being lawyers and law practices, we’re capturing client data. We’re capturing who they are, we’re capturing what they do. We’re capturing personal identifying information. We’re capturing health related information. We’re capturing sensitive information that is potentially damaging to people’s reputation. You have all of this information within your law firm that you are holding securely and you have a responsibility to protect it. So years and years and years ago, the A a released a comment to the model rules of professional conduct rule 1.1, and I wish that they would just change the rule, but with less impact. They released a comment that said, part of the responsibility that a lawyer has to be competent in a practice area is to understand the technology that you’re using when you’re practicing law.
So it’s necessary. It’s just absolutely necessary that we understand the technological risks that we’re assuming when we’re capturing all this data from our clients. And so when we are running our analytics on our law firm, you as a practitioner need to be careful. Are you keeping all of this information within your practice management system that is designed to be secure, that has multifactor authentication, that is encrypted communication end to end, that’s encrypted in transit, that’s encrypted at rest, that has the minimum 2 56 key encryption, right? Is it SOC two or SOC one certified, right? Right. You need to understand the security there. And those are big questions. Are you taking that data, data from this very secure, in most cases system and putting it somewhere else and like a business analytics system? And maybe it’s a great system, maybe it’s amazing and maybe it’s hyper secure, that’s totally cool, but you need to be sure that it’s, and when you get that information from point A to point B, how are you getting it there?
Are you downloading it all into some local drive on your firm’s server or on your machine? Do you understand the risks of housing, that type of data locally and you weak points? And how are you getting that information to this other business analytics system? So that’s not to say the business analytics systems are good, that’s not what I’m saying at all. What I am saying is anytime you have two systems that communicate like that, if they are not designed to work together and it’s a manual export import situation, you increase your window that a bad actor could come through. So just be mindful, be exceptionally mindful of it. And more than anything, folks, I just want to remind you, in a practice management system, almost everyone is going to say the software is proprietary, but the data is yours. You need to make sure that whatever you’re using to analyze your firm data, because that is also client data maintains that same level of system. That’s your data. And for the love of God, don’t use free business analytics software. Don’t use free trials. Don’t do anything free. Don’t, just don’t.
Zack Glaser (19:44):
Oh man, that
Joyce Bradford (19:46):
Was my soapbox.
Zack Glaser (19:47):
No, that’s fantastic. I love getting into that because if you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product. So yeah, if you’re using a free app of some sort, it is extremely likely. Read Jamie, [email protected]. It is extremely likely that the application is mining your data. And again, read client data, which means that that’s no longer confidential. We have a duty of confidentiality. So we have two duties as it’s related to this client data. One is of confidentiality, but then the other is actually to maintain it. So we have to keep it as well. We only have to act reasonably. And so thank God, because if we had to act more than reasonably then because even keeping client data in a secure vault underneath your basement somewhere, you could lose that too. That could flood, you could lose the key, all those things. But just to kind of dumb this down a little bit, with the encrypted at rest, that means that it’s encrypted while it’s sitting somewhere on most likely the database on an A w S server somewhere.
So it’s encrypted while it’s sitting there. Encrypted in transit, as you had said, is while it’s moving from place to place, from your computer to the server and all that, it’s encrypted over the internet. Then we want to make sure that, again, you said we have multifactor authentication because once we’ve encrypted this thing, now we have to think about access points. Do we have less secure access points? And having multifactor authentication means that somebody is not going to be able to say that they’re you and then get into this thing. And again, at this point, because it’s so easy, that’s the only thing that’s reasonable. If you’re not using multifactor authentication and you get hacked, I would argue that that is unreasonable and you have a major problem. The servers that these companies like Cosm X keep their information on are encrypted, and they are probably much more safe than my office server at the very least.
But like you’re saying, we need to think about what’s our weakest point. I knew an attorney who had very, very good protocol in place to make sure that the computer was very safe, but backed up the computer on a CD every night, and the CD just lived in the office. So all the client information is sitting there on a CD that could just be taken at any time, not in a locked drawer or anything. So we just think about our, what’s our point? So yes, we think is my data secure? Is my client data more importantly, secure in the cloud? Well, is it when you use another platform, and I think I would argue that keeping it in the same platform, what is it? Put all your eggs in one basket and guard that basket with your life. So sorry, you found a soapbox that I like as
Joyce Bradford (22:46):
Well. We can put them right beside each other on Main Street. We’ll just stand up. You shout one way, I’ll shout the other and maybe we’ll be heard. We’ll find out. Yeah.
Zack Glaser (22:57):
So it goes beyond just not using Pete’s law practice management software that’s being run out of your friend’s garage. It goes beyond that. We want to make sure we’re not using free things, and we want it to work though too. We need to get good information out of this because we can, I hate the idea sometimes of telling people that are making a lot of money that they could be making more, but that’s a lot of times what data-driven decision making is because yeah, you’re making money in your law office, great, but could you be making more if you focused on this? I don’t know. The data should help you know that, but I don’t know that. But
Joyce Bradford (23:38):
That’s the thing, right? So no matter what your goal is, greater profitability, greater client service, understanding actual time waste, where your time sucks, understanding who your best vendors are and who your least successful vendors are. Understanding your most successful pre areas. I don’t care what your end goal is, but you cannot get that answer without data because as you said at the beginning of this podcast act, everything else is just guessing. If you’re going with your gut, I don’t care how good your gut is, that’s still just a guess.
Zack Glaser (24:14):
Yeah, that’s exactly right. So yeah, let’s not guess. Joyce, once again, I really appreciate you being with us to help people understand their practice, a lot about practice management, and I appreciate you sharing your wisdom and knowledge with this. If people want to know more about this, obviously they can go to cosol x.com. Yes, and they can get a demo. It’s tough to do free trials on those things, right? Those,
Joyce Bradford (24:40):
Yeah. We still do free trials and I encourage you, go get a free trial. Awesome. Go get a free trial. Don’t have to have a credit card. Just go get a free trial.
Zack Glaser (24:47):
Have somebody else’s credit card.
Joyce Bradford (24:50):
Use anybody’s credit card. I don’t care. But go do a free trial. Throw some data in there, see how easy it is to look. How much time, time have I posted? Who are my clients? How am I going to understand my financial situation this month? How am I going to understand what I’m going to be looking at? Two months workload, finance load, task load, just mental load. Look at all that stuff. It’s there in CosmoLex. It’s going to help you. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for at CosmoLex, go check out the rest of the Profit Solve family, and we’re at profits solve.com. And I will tell you, I don’t know what happened to the e on profit solve, but someone made a grand marketing decision to just leave the E out. So it’s profit solve without the e.com, but you’ll see the whole family of brands there, and we’d love for you to explore any of them, all of them. We’re really a home for just about anything that you could imagine for your law firm. And if you can’t get it with one product, we’re going to direct you over potentially to another to see we’re going to be able to provide the services that you need.
Zack Glaser (25:56):
Well, and they’re certainly all fantastic places to get data in and out of. So Joyce, I appreciate you being with me. And that’s private Solve no e.com.
Joyce Bradford (26:05):
Thanks. Thanks, Zack.
The Lawyerist Podcast is edited by Britany Felix. Are you ready to implement the ideas we discuss here into your practice? Wondering what to do next? Here are your first two steps. First. If you haven’t read The Small Firm Roadmap yet, grab the first chapter for free at Lawyerist.com/book. Looking for help beyond the book? Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities, are right for you. Head to Lawyerist.com/community/lab to schedule a 10-minute call with our team to learn more. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.