(Credit: tonefotografia/Shutterstock.com) (Credit: tonefotografia/Shutterstock.com)

 

Legal departments are increasingly looking to harness their data into actionable insights and metrics. But oftentimes, this effort falls short if they don’t measure one key variable: time spent completing tasks. AtThe Next Generation of Legal Metrics: How Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Uses Data to Save Money and Create the Future,” a May 10 session at the 2017 Corporate Legal Operations Consortium’s annual institute in Las Vegas,  HPE’s legal department managers discussed how this measurement was essential to increasing efficiency in their operations.

HPE’s legal department creates a variety of different data. Molly Perry, chief operating officer for the Office of the General Counsel at HPE, pointed out that the department’s case management, matter management, contracting and IP solutions are each “a source of millions of data points.”

Early in her career, Perry was tasked with making sense of all this information. “When I first got into my role, one the first things my general counsel gave me as the number one objective was to stop ‘the quarterly surprises,’” she said. “These surprises were when different practice areas would go over or under budget pretty much without any warning. And until we started harvesting the data, we didn’t know what people were working on, or how long it was taking.”

The problem with data is that, without context, it does not tell a complete story, Perry said. The information the legal department created “didn’t tell us what we could do to improve. But in order to solve that and make this information truly actionable, we added time,” Perry explained.

For Michael Pisias, operations manager for the Office of General Counsel at HPE, measuring time is fundamental in uncovering the value of an attorney’s work. “Let’s say you have a senior attorney and they’ve only completed one item” over a set time period, while others have been knocking out many items over the same amount of time, he said.  While the attorneys completing more tasks may seem more productive, they may be working on lower value projects, he added.  And sometimes, attorneys may not realize just what they are primarily focusing on until their work is measured.

HPE’s legal team used time metrics to uncover what tasks were taking the most of their attorneys’ attention. Senior attorneys were convinced they were using their time for high level tasks, recalled Pisias. “It turns out they were wrong. We found out they were spending a lot of time on low value deals.”

The legal department was able to change its workflows to achieve a “28 percent reduction in the time spent on low value deals” and have their staff focus on more pressing and valuable matters, he added.

Tracking where its attorneys spend their time also allowed HPE to better compare their in-house litigation attorneys to their outside counsel. Finding where and when in-house staff can litigate cases more cost efficiently, Perry said, has “enabled [the department] to bring down our cost while accomplishing the same amount of work.”