Duane Morris looked in-house when it decided to develop Dispute Navigation Analytics (DNA), a tool designed to predict costs and expenses for litigation matters.

Spearheaded by the firm’s trial practice group chair, Matthew Taylor, DNA was designed by a team led by partners Michael Zullo and Wayne Mack. The tool determines a price point by analyzing prior Duane Morris litigation matters and their billing invoices to determine how much each phase of a case has cost the firm, historically. However, prior fees are not the end-all, be-all. To figure out the right price, DNA also takes into account several other factors to determine how much each phase of litigation should cost, including interviews with the attorneys involved in the cases.

DNA also purports to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a case allowing clients to make better decisions about whether or not to proceed. According to the press release, DNA examines factors such as who is the opposing counsel, jury behavior and demographic information, the potential number of witnesses, cost of e-discovery, and the judge presiding over the matter. Indirect factors, such as loss of institutional prestige, and the impact on shareholders and their relationship with banks and other financial institutions also form part of the equation.

Zullo told Law Technology News that he and his team began working on DNA over a year ago. “We recognized that the climate for our clients had changed, especially with regards to litigation,” said Zullo. “A lot of our litigation clients expressed interest in trying to get certainty with regards to cost and exposure. They wanted to understand, as early as possible, what their potential costs would be.”

According to Zullo, DNA was launched internally approximately one month ago so that Duane Morris lawyers could get comfortable with the program. In addition to the DNA program, the firm partnered with LexisNexis to develop Redwood Planning, a process management software program from LexisNexis’ Redwood Analytics Business Intelligence suite. According to Zullo, the program provides real-time cost-tracking of data for cases, allowing the firm and its clients to monitor expenses.

The unveiling of DNA comes at a time when law firms are increasingly turning to analytics to provide cost certainty to clients. According to a report last month from LexisNexis, which examined legal bills and invoices, the largest law firms (based on attorney headcount) are losing business to slightly smaller competitors, in part, because the smaller firms are reducing and managing costs better. (According to the National Law Journal, the 613-lawyer Duane Morris is the 62nd-largest firm in the United States based on attorney headcount.) Additionally, the press release cited a study by BTI Consulting Group, which found that corporate counsel are increasingly relying on analytics and early case assessment to set litigation budgets. “We’ve been seeing a tidal ramp-up in expectations for first-year settlement, and corresponding urgency from in-house counsel on getting more accurate predictive and tracking information,” said Michael Rynowecer, president of BTI, in the press release.

As for Duane Morris, the firm hopes it can continue to improve DNA so that other practice groups can start using it. “We’re currently in talks, internally, as to how to make it applicable to other areas such as IP, appellate litigation, employment law, etc.,” said Zullo. “Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later.”

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