How Seyfarth Shaw Leverages Data to Manage and Drive Firm Growth

How Seyfarth Shaw Leverages Data to Manage and Drive Firm Growth

By Dawn Orel
June 24, 2021 | 5 minutes
Technology Management Communications Software and Platforms Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Content Type Article Additional Options Content Level: Advanced
Business Development
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As the largest firms expand and mid-tier firms look to size up as well, growth continues to drive strategy at law firms. Whether organically, via merger or a focused lateral campaign, expansion creates both opportunities and challenges. Over the 35 years I’ve been at Seyfarth Shaw, we have grown exponentially in terms of the number of lawyers, service offerings and regional and international presence. Along the way, strategic data collection and usage guided our firm’s growth and continued expansion.  

By consolidating critical (though disparate) information from across the firm into a unified data platform, our consistently expanding teams collaborate more effectively. This elevates our client service, keeps our firm top of mind to win new business and ultimately positions us for future growth.   

Data Challenges

When clients have immediate legal needs, accessing relevant experience and subject matter experts can be a fire drill if data is siloed across systems. At many firms, this scramble might require visiting multiple databases, checking various excel files, contacting the docketing department and sending attorneys a blast email. This time adds up.

We long recognized this data deficiency and built an in-house system to begin our data centralization. This step put us ahead of the curve, but as our growth accelerated it strained our resources. New data sources, new practices and more granular matter-level details required continuous updates to our home-grown approach. We quickly realized that instead of continually rebuilding our application, we needed a flexible solution that would work in tandem with the internal and external systems are relied upon for accurate information.

By consolidating critical (though disparate) information from across the firm into a unified data platform, our consistently expanding teams collaborate more effectively.

Cross-Functional Team Collaboration

Seyfarth believes that data should enhance our teams’ work, not complicate it. Accordingly, we saw the need to centralize and democratize experience-level data as a way to further the team-based collaboration already in existence.

Aware that we collect massive amounts of hard data daily, we saw the opportunity to add contextual information to the data already gathered and stored in formal systems like conflicts, time detail and billing. This contextual “soft” data creates a more comprehensive picture of our firm’s collective experience and expertise. However, compiling this individually by practices and departments makes it difficult to work across groups as we grow. 

By collecting these extra details in a single location already fed by numerous internal systems, we collaborate across the firm more efficiently and effectively. Instead of asking a lawyer for the same information multiple times — to price a matter, answer a client question or craft an announcement — we ask for the information once and store it in an accessible location for all future inquiries and uses.

In fact, we now automate simple, intelligent surveys from the platform to ask the right lawyer for the right information at the right time. Using this approach, we rapidly leverage litigation and transaction details across the firm. 

With centralized data collected, our teams share critical reports and saved searches on the platform. Whether we are too busy in the office to connect or all working remotely, sharing the most recent reports and curated data allows the team to collaborate on a deeper and broader level to serve our clients and lawyers. 

Elevating Client Service

Clients continue to raise expectations and firms need to provide faster, better answers to meet their demands. Supplementing direct legal advice with a nuanced understanding of the entire breadth of the relationship differentiates the firm in the client’s eyes. Using our centralized data platform, we set the bar at a new level for client service.

Efficient processes can save money for the client and get them results and answers more quickly. When we need to find the right expertise internally to advise on a matter, we can run a real-time search for the best situated attorney.

For example, if a Georgia health care client asks us a nuanced question related to the National Labor Relations Act, we search our data using qualifying criteria for “traditional labor,” “Atlanta office,” and “health care industry.”  This tailored search yields our subject matter experts in the area and a list of matters that are directly relevant. Similarly, if a client approaches us about a proposed retail merger in California, we can quickly search for relevant attorneys and representative transactions. We can then connect with attorneys in minutes of receiving the request.

Winning New Business

Our ability to harness and proactively use data puts us a step ahead in winning new business. Whereas in the past business development relied heavily, if not exclusively, on pre-established relationships, today firms must demonstrate the ability to help clients solve their problems and do so at a justifiable price.

Using a comprehensive, unified data set, we now arm our attorneys with the details they need to tell a compelling, experience-based story when pitching new work. In other words, we can quickly provide clients a narrative: “We've been through this. Here's what we've done and how many times. These attorneys are true subject matter experts with thousands of hours on this specific claim. Here were the results.”

While our story is critical, data-informed pricing gives us competitive precision with clients. Accessing the wealth of details we keep on cases and transactions helps craft budgets. Our pricing team searches for similar matters, hones in on the most relevant cases and creates aggressive but realistic pricing. By integrating information from our conflicts system, we locate deals completed in the past, based on which parties and types of parties were involved.

Strategically Planning for the Future

While data can elevate client service, inform more accurate pricing and highlight pertinent experience to drive growth, its value multiplies when harnessed with other systems and analyzed for strategic insights. With the right systems in place, data can be utilized to drive firm expansion and client satisfaction.  

Having our data in a comprehensive platform is also sparking conversations with leadership about what else we can do, including applying analytics and technology to other areas of the law firm. The ability to think strategically about data is key, and is the differentiator that will determine which firms succeed in the marketplace going forward.

Dawn Orel
Seyfarth Shaw

Dawn Orel has invested her entire career into the growth and performance of Seyfarth. She joined the firm in 1985, moving into diverse roles touching nearly every area of Seyfarth’s operations. Today, as chief marketing and business development officer, Orel oversees an elite team of marketing, business development, practice management, communication and pricing professionals who support the firm’s clients and attorneys.