Running A Small Law Firm In The Age Of Big Data

You’ve probably heard the term “Big Data.” So what’s it all about?

Generally speaking, the term refers to digital information that’s too difficult and too abundant for a person to track. In the marketing world, Big Data is gleaned from potential customers’ online behavior wherever it can be found. Digital software looks for the places online that a consumer visits watching for clues about what the person likes—and how likely he or she is to buy it.

You can see that for many businesses, Big Data is a big deal. In fact, many big law firms are starting to jump on the Big Data trend. They’re using it not only for finding clients, but also for doing research and setting fees. And they don’t need to hire lots of people to gather it. It’s an automated process.

Can your firm get in on the action?

Well, not yet. For smaller firms, mining Big Data is far too expensive to be useful.

But there are some similar techniques your firm can use to gather information about potential clients. Call it “little data.” These are the smaller patterns your firm can identify among your existing clients that might influence or improve your marketing and customer experience.

For instance: If you have a receptionist or someone else handling intake, ask that person what he or she hears. In particular, listen for trends—keywords or repeated phrases that many prospective clients may use when they’re very close to hiring you. (Learning who isn’t likely to pan out as a paying client is also a good trend to identify.)

You might also want to simply review the recent facts. Look at the last twenty clients you had in a practice area or type of case that you’d like to see more often. Map out some basic demographic data on those clients: gender, income level, education level, profession, family status, etc. Look for trends there — were most of your clients within a certain age range, did they tend to live in a specific area or neighborhood — and then use that information to shape an upcoming marketing or advertising push.

If you do find some new insight, share this knowledge throughout your firm. In the scenarios above, the goal would be to educate your staff so that every customer-facing employee could develop a better sense of what steps to take at what time.

Big Data is getting more accessible, yes. But for many businesses, putting Big Data to work requires a healthy budget, ample time and dedicated staff. If you’re running a smaller operation, don’t fret over what the big firms might be doing. Think about how you can use the information you have on-hand. Combine them with your strengths like personal service and a local presence. These are the things small firms like yours excel at.

Remember, data doesn’t have to be Big to be useful. Done right, “little data” can yield big results.

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