Law Metrics: Find Your MVPs
The NBA Finals are just around the corner, and fans are already arguing over who will be named this season’s Most Valuable Player. Will Stephen Curry pull off a third-consecutive MVP (something only three players — Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell — have ever done before)? Or will the award go to James Harden, who has the most assists this season and has lifted the whole Houston Rockets franchise? Many think it’s sure to go to Russell Westbrook, who’s leading the league in scoring and has the record for the most ‘triple doubles’ ever in one season? (Note: for those who think only of hamburger varieties when you hear ‘triple double’: it means having double-digit amounts for three of the five standard statistical categories — points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots).
As all of that jargon makes clear, performance metrics hold a place in the heart of American sports. But it hasn’t always been that way.
When Earnshaw Cook first published Percentage Baseball, which mathematically quantified the success of the great players, he was torn to shreds by the industry. Coaches and team managers felt their job was an art form; though their decisions were rational, they were spiced by insight from the gut. Some upstart math geek can’t replace that je ne sais quoi!
The full triumph of metrics in sports didn’t happen until the early 2000s, when the Oakland A’s outsmarted wealthier teams by drafting unconventional players with great metrics. If you’ve seen or read Moneyball, you know this story.
But even with metric’s rise into sportscaster’s jargon and fans’ fantasy teams, you’ll notice the season’s MVP still isn’t named by a computer. Now, the debate centers on which measurements ought to be most important — which ones are we going to tie closest to ‘value’? Higher-order qualitative thinking remains important.
The same themes hold true for law offices. 1) Every office needs to recognize its MVPs and its Most Improved Players — and also come to grips with its low performers and bottlenecks. 2) To measure success, you can’t just look for the top scorer (who brought in the most money this year). You need to search a variety of metrics.
Here are a few that lawyers should consider:
Cycle Time: This is a measurement of the average time it takes to go from sign-up to settlement. You can make firm-wide measurements based on case type, to get a sense of your average. You can then measure these against each attorney’s averages. In addition to showing you where each attorney is particularly speedy or slow, this will help you give more reliable estimates to new clients. It can also help you determine whether some long cases (or low-yield short cases) are still worth it.
In terms of finding your valuable players: look for people who can consistently move cases forward, phase by phase. It’s not necessarily true that quick-moving cases are always better — that needs to be measured against final pay-out. But if you or others have difficulty with cases getting stuck at a certain phase — if the final settlement just can’t be negotiated; or if the original complaint is slow to come together — then you have a clear target for improvement. Dormant cases not only hurt your bottom line, they also frustrate clients and can harm your reputation.
Pro Tip: Filevine records the phase of each case, allowing you to see the day the case status moves. This makes cycle time measurements much easier.
Measuring Clientele: Much of a team member’s worth is in the clients they can bring in. Beyond measuring how much revenue someone’s clients can bring the firm, it’s valuable to measure how many referrals people receive from other clients. And of course, through the Net Promoter Score, you can discover how much clients like their lawyer.
While you’re at it, measuring your Client Growth Rate can give you a useful number for comparing work loads across time. It’s valuable to see changes in client numbers for each specific attorney, and for the firm as a whole.
Tasks Completed: Sometimes, greatness hides in the details. There may be paralegals and secretaries in your firm who won’t ever land a massive settlement, but who do a tremendous amount of day-to-day tasks. Use metrics to find staff members with high levels of completed tasks, and low ratios of overdue or incomplete tasks.
Also, look for team members that have high ratios of overdue tasks. Are these people overwhelmed — and in need of changes to their workflow — or are they not quite good at their job?
Pro Tip: since Filevine connects your task list to, you can easily run reports on complete, incomplete, and overdue tasks.
Settlements/Awards: And of course, the amount of money each team member brings into the firm is still important. Measure this not only in gross terms, but also find the average per client, in order to understand attorneys’ differing strategies (high quantity and low quality vs. low quantity and high quality clientele).
Search for Improvement: With all of the above KPIs, don’t simply look for who has the highest numbers. Take a hint from the NBA and also celebrate your Most Improved Players. This means repeating KPI measurements on a regular schedule, so you can recognize change over time.
Measuring improvement will also show you which areas are dipping, and allow you to address new problems before they take a more noticeable toll on your practice.
Though no sneaker-brands will be seeking contracts with your top-performing paralegals, your MVPs deserve some recognition. If you align your KPIs with your firm values and goals, they’ll reveal to you the unlikely heroes — and unexpected bottlenecks — on your own home team.