PLI Legal Ops Conference 2022

Hearst colleague Jessica Williams and I were pleased to join the Practising Law Institute (PLI)’s Legal Operations 2022 chaired by Kate Orr of Orrick and Greg Bennett of Workday. 

At  the program, I expected to come away inspired by cool initiatives, best practices, solutions, and techniques that law departments and law firms are using to drive efficiencies and bring meaningful change to businesses. The event did not disappoint.

I joined a Telling Stories with Data panel, moderated by Basha Rubin of Priori Legal with co-panelists Ameen Haddad of Oracle and Bryan Parker of Legal Innovators. Jessica joined a panel on Legal Operations Projects, moderated by Kate Orr of Orrick. 

Jessica and I focused on a key Hearst OGC project this year to implement Priori Scout.  I focused on how Hearst uses data with respect to experience, diversity and price to drive law firm selection processes. That said, since that project won a Buying Legal Council Collaboration Award two weeks ago, I'm going to refer you to last week's blog post for more information and focus on a  few key take-aways:

Data analytics generates conversation.

    Putting a data analytics program in place is iterative. Start simple with counting: incidents, time and percentages.  See below for some common categories. Think of it as a “5 whys?” exercise.  When you provide data in response to a first set of questions it will generate a 2nd round of questions.  Keep following that winding road.  It is a fallacy that you have to have a clean data set before having a conversation.  It is precisely those conversations that lead to a clean data set.  Of course, before sharing, you should review the dataset and make a strong first pass to remove mistakes, identify outliers and flag an initial set of questions. That said, getting some initial hypotheses wrong is on the path to getting it right.

    Slay Assumptions. Sometimes it is better to ask forgiveness than permission.

    When you launch a process it is almost always fraught with some degree of closely held assumptions that turn out not to be accurate and therefore takes someone by surprise. Those assumptions not infrequently involve blaming someone else for a problem.  Data often has the effect of depersonalizing the issue and allowing everyone to come together to a solution taking a fact-based practical approach.  

    On more than one occasion I’ve been told not to take up a project because the facts are known, but when I ask for the data set there is none.  This type of project has almost always come when I’ve attended an industry event where I hear experienced expert professionals say something that does not align with a beloved assumption where I work. In this case, I try to identify an intern or other underutilized resource to do a quick, small exploratory data review in the area.  Often that produces data that challenges the assumption and gains the permission I need to take a project forward.  Have I heard, “I thought I told you not to take this on?” Absolutely.  Have I almost always also heard, “I’m glad you did.” Yes.  So long as you adhere to the spirit of the directive not to invest significant resources and time to the issue. 

    "Know when to speed up or slow down" - Tara Sarnoff, American Express

    Personally, I have a tendency to push the speed and have to remind myself that sometimes slow is the fastest way to get the job done right.  That said, you cannot allow naysayers to set the pace either.  You need to incorporate concerns into the plan, regroup, and go straight back into the ring.  Perseverance is an important character trait in legal ops professionals.  Sometimes it is a matter of having the stamina to outlast the “what ifs?” and always be leading towards “let’s give it a try and see….”:

    Data Categories: A few common metrics to get you started are:


    • Spend by service provider, business, practice group and location.
    • Rates: Start with external rates
      • External economic and market rate data
      • Qualitative reviews on firm and individual timekeeper performance on company matters
      • Timekeeper level: Review against both internal and external benchmarks by role, practice group, location, years of experience and value provided. 
      • Matter budgets: Use the data you have to predict what new matters with similar characteristics will cost.
      • Matter Staffing: Look at both external and internal matters.  
      • Fully-loaded hourly rate for internal staff and external counterparts 
      • Response rates to compliance requests
      • Close rates to compliance reviews 
      • Degree of compliance by issue area, supplier, business and location
      Contracts: And much of this applies to any process. 
      • Map the process: Visio 
      • Time the contract spends in the hands of each player and why
      • Extract key dates for notices and renewals 
      • Determine what key clauses are, who owns each of those clauses in legal or the business. 
      • Score key clause positions at 100% 85% 70% and fail.  This helped us to look at contract health.
      • Map how your procurement contract deliverables map to corresponding sales contracts.  Okay this is one that is more complex but often under-explored.  If you give your procurement provider 3 months leeway on the part but your customer only gives you 1 month leeway in delivery then your company is in trouble.

        For more metrics ideas, visit for a comprehensive Legal Metrics Catalog.

        With special thanks to Tara Sarnoff and Kay Kim!