FIRST DATA — INput needed on the pitch

Richard Brent|Head of content, Briefing

There’s no data strategy — or senior strategic leaders aren’t aware they’ve got one — at over two-fifths of leading large law firms that make up the Briefing audience. That’s according to this year’s Briefing Frontiers research of the cohort back in February — and it isn’t just a problem for the generative artificial intelligence (genAI) upstarts now itching to get their algorithms on the goods.

There’s marketing and business development leaders for example. At November’s big Briefing day designed just for them, over 50 joined us to tackle one super-specific management headache — selected by popular vote ahead of time. How could these stretched departments realistically streamline the process of rounding up all that credentials information needed for critical pitches that drive the business forward? Can busy and tetchy lawyers be cajoled into proactively sharing — even inputting — the information, when and where they’re meant to, under their own steam? Or does it perhaps look like a promising use case for a helpful dose of automation? Are the various data repositories sufficiently centralised or integrated —and if not, is that an achievable state?

Know — and show — your data’s worth

Many ideas put forward focused on human touchpoints — developing good process, incentivisation of ‘good’ behaviours, and carefully crafted training regimes. “Just don’t stop,” stressed one set of contributors — there’ll always be a human element, they believed — but leadership would be wise to invest time in pushing demonstration of the true value of clean data whenever they can. For example, they can highlight how significantly it reduces the rework required when completing certain tasks.

Break it down

Good advice for many a potentially mammoth project I’m sure, another group urged the room to seek out the “small possibilities” rather than trying to attack everything at once — and indeed the human enablers of those possibilities! Help here might be found right across any hierarchy or functional structure — perhaps there are some natural, but quiet, or overlooked, champions you’d want in your corner. And keep reinforcing the business drivers, they agreed — you need a clearly understandable case first when bidding for any new tech to improve a process

Truly own the issue — or get others to

There was also stressing of the right point of senior sponsorship to influence attitudes and behaviours further down the line — and important business processes inevitably need a formal owner (or owners) accountable for outcomes. Is that a lawyer or another?

Business systems may not be a solution in themselves — people, process, technology, and all that — but another table of leaders emphasised that, however sophisticated, they can’t just be left to hold and handle your knowledge. Firms also need to invest in establishing the necessary knowledge of them — maintenance and the role of matter opening, for example, as well as depositing data in accordance with a trusted taxonomy if you want a high-quality result and lasting transformation to power more productive working.

The most popular idea with the whole room, however, I’m sure can’t be as simple as it sometimes sounds. “You have to go off-piste” to persuade these busy, perhaps frustratingly resistant, people to change their ways. And what might await our leaders who take the plunge and go there? “Gamify it!”

Just say no?

CJ Anderson, director at law firm data governance experts Iron Carrot, later let us know that they also need to suffer some ‘stick’ though. Yes, there is emphasising a culture and expectation of capturing “collectively”, yes there are questions about ownership and incentivisation, and setting of good standards to consider. “But it also comes down to what you don’t or won’t do. If partners don’t feel the pain, they won’t see the problem,” she said. So if somebody asks you to fix a reporting problem that has arisen due to poor data management, it’s ok to say no: “they shouldn’t think you can automatically fix it. The perception of data as an admin exercise to be avoided simply isn’t the norm in other sectors.”

Thank you to all our event partners — ComXo, Intapp, Introhive, Litera, My Customer Lens and Peppermint — for their expert facilitation of this and several other conversations to distil the common challenges, priorities, and potential pieces of a solution. You can find many more insights extracted from all the day’s activities on the event page here.

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