Monday, August 25, 2008

Experience Management; Monday, 1 PM

Formal Title: Experience Management - Case Studies in Tackling a Difficult Challenge

Description and Session Link:

A request frequently made of KM or IS professionals in law firms is to implement a way to efficiently track and report the experience of individual attorneys. Doing this can help both sell work and deliver work. However, experience management has proven surprisingly difficult. Just defining the type of work to be tracked can pose a stumbling block, as it can be tough to find the "just right" level of detail between the "too broad" and "too narrow." This panel explores ways to manage law firm experience through case studies from firms who have made good progress. Each panelist will discuss the business challenge they faced, the tool they built or adapted to address it, the processes they deployed to ensure good tracking and reporting and the results realized.


Kathrine Cain - Winston & Strawn LLP
Stan Wasylyk - Michael Farrell Group
Douglas Cornelius--Goodwin Procter

My Take:


Kate is on the Practice Support team at Winston. She has a project management background and she gave her talk a fairly rigid structure, focusing on the process she used to craft an experience taxonomy. She provided no information about how the taxonomy was applied or searched, which was somewhat disappointing.

Experience management requires integrating information from different systems.

What questions can't you answer now? What are the business needs of the practice? What do your clients need that you can't provide? Who is being asked for reports? Conflicts? Accounting? Business Development? Who is asking, and what is actually being used? How is it being used?

Are clients asking for the information in RFPs? Are they using it to restructure their practices?

Defining the business needs should be the core driver of the initiative. With any experience search based on a taxonomy, you have to balance a desire for detail with the needs and capacity of practicing lawyers.

Their first trade showed that different facets of their work were exposed. Practice divisions, type of work, type of party were all represented in different levels of the practice description. Similar terms should be standardized or consolidated (i.e., Corporate IP / Trademark Litigation vs. Litigation / Trademark).

The experience identifications should be independent of the organizational or political structure.

Any experience taxonomy needs to be validated against people's expectations and reactions.

A question pulled out that Kate is using a SQL database on the back end. The "capturing information" is a custom application, not available for public display.

Winston has a corporate archive of matters. They have an internal and external descriptions for matters.


One goal was to staff people regardless of organizational or geographical boundaries. They wanted to improve productivity by balancing pro bono and billable work. They also wanted to aid the firm's diversity efforts.


Information was scattered between and maintained by different organizational units, but there was no information about forward-looking attorney "utilization."

Technical Approach

The three main components were a data model based in Maven PSA, a forecasting tool, and a search /presentation tool. They piloted in the fall of 2007 with an 81-attorney practice area.

The GUI presents a tabbed view of all the information about the attorney, based on the source (such HR, education, hours). They also had a tracking system where the practice group leadership ranked attorney's experience on a scale of 1-3, 1 = some, 2=proficient, 3=expert. A matrix lets practice area leaders check marketplace needs compared with what your attorneys have.

The forecasting tool uses regression analysis to guess at lawyer availability based on a years' worth of billing records.

His sample query is "who has argued trial motions, has worked in biotechnology, and speaks French?" The hidden questions are "When are they available?" and, if you get two people "How do their skills compare?", i.e., "Who is better?"

The search displays multiple fields at once, like an August 2008 Interwoven DMS search. Search results has an "availability" assessment over 6 weeks. Another shows relative skills.

Lessons Learned

It's hard to teach lawyers to do new things. Senior management sponsorship helped this project significantly. Associates wanted to make themselves more visible. The "operating layer" of partners who actually were going to call the associates did not ultimately buy in, however, and the project has been put on hold.


At many firms some associates get too much work, some get too little, and staffing is chaotic. At Goodwin Procter, there is an intermediate level of staffing managers that acts as a shield and buffer between the people who need to get the work done and the people who will do it (associates).

Goodwin's iStaff application lets associates submit their own workload reports, indicating how busy they expect to be next week, and their availability for short and long term work.

The "requestors" don't fill out the details on the request. Rather, the staffing managers who do this.

The iStaff attorney profiles shows biographies, hours YTD, and self-reported availability. Hours reports for an individual shows when and how much attorneys have billed, and also shows ratio of billable to pro bono work.

The application has been succesful. Managers have a much easier job. Associates feel they get better work. Partners are happy with the associates they are getting too.

Goodwin Procter also has an experience search that combines the firm biographies with matter descriptions. It works well for uncommon terms ("Puerto Rico real estate") but much less well for common terms like "real estate."

Mary Panetta spoke up and indicated that at her firm Akin Gump they keep a running tally of what percentage attorneys work in a given industry or matter type, over the last two years.

Following a question about marketing information, I gave a shameless but quick plug for my session tomorrow, which will address in some detail Goodwin's approach to capturing matter experience for marketing and many other purposes.

*Doug and I both work in the KM Department at Goodwin Procter.

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