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| 3 minutes read

Business Intelligence for In-House Legal Departments

Drowning in Data 

The volume of data that legal departments create continues to increase each day. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity. How can legal departments navigate this challenge and use this rich data to better inform matter strategy and support decision-making? Through Business Intelligence.

Applying an analytical perspective to legal matters – aka Business Intelligence – can help legal departments take charge of their data, improve business decision-making and enhance operational efficiency. In this article, I discuss the benefits of Business Intelligence and highlight ways that legal departments can begin to apply an analytical lens to the management of their staff, matters and outside counsel, all while leveraging simple data that is likely already being collected.

Benefits of Business Intelligence

There is no shortage of data available to legal departments. Every employee, every outside counsel and every matter produces incredibly rich data. Successful companies leverage that data to inform strategy and identify areas ripe for process improvement. The benefits of Business Intelligence are numerous. By collecting and bringing to life people, financial and operational data, general counsel can obtain answers to business questions more quickly and better demonstrate the value of the legal department to the rest of the company. By improving data governance, lawyers and staff can cut down on the amount of time they spend doing data entry and, ultimately, produce cleaner, more accurate and complete data. And by applying a data driven mindset to the management of matters and outside counsel, in-house legal departments can better manage risk and spend.

Leverage Existing Data to Answer Critical Business Questions

Legal departments can use latent data to produce powerful answers to critical business questions. Think, for a moment, of the rich analytical insights that can be had from collecting just a few simple metrics for each engagement, such as matter type, matter duration, budget and fee arrangement. With that data alone, a general counsel can begin to understand the scale and nature of their legal spend. To that end, below are three business categories that are highly applicable to in-house legal departments. For each business category, I have (1) outlined the common data points applicable to that business category and (2) offered example business questions related to those data points. The intention is to provide you with examples of how data that is available to most, if not all, legal departments can be leveraged for Business Intelligence.

Business Category 1: People

Data Points

Business Questions

  • Number of lawyers within Legal
  • Seniority per lawyer in Legal
  • Number of internal lawyers / (size of division or revenue)
  • Ratio of legal staff: other staff by division / function
  • Distribution of legal teams by business unit / region / division / function
  • Type of lawyer – specialty, experience and location
  • How many people do we need to run the legal department?
  • Are our legal matters appropriately staffed?
  • Do we have the right resource coverage internally, including sufficient seniority, expertise and cultural fit?
  • What are the implications of reducing internal headcount / external spend?
  • How can we best manage a growing business and legal function?

Business Category 2: Operational

Data Points

Business Questions

  • Matter duration
  • Area of Law
  • Process and workflow mapping
  • Task complexity
  • Risk assessment
  • Legal technology, architecture and design
  • Output of support roles

  • How can we minimize the number of operational tasks carried out by our lawyers?
  • Could greater use of existing resources and technology enable us to do more with less?
  • What is the optimum department structure / reporting lines to support efficient working?
  • How can we most optimally design the legal function’s interactions with the business?
  • Are there legacy processes ripe for improvement?
  • Are there opportunities to improve operational efficiencies?
  • How can we work more effectively with outside counsel?

Business Category 3: Financial

Data Points

Business Questions

  • Scale and nature of external spend
  • Total cost of legal (internal + external)
  • Outside counsel rates
  • Budget (matter, monthly etc.)
  • Fee arrangement type (fixed, capped, hourly)

  • How can we ensure Legal operates efficiently and demonstrates savings like other internal functions?
  • How can we better communicate value to business leadership?
  • Are there opportunities to improve how legal work is sourced?
  • Are there cost saving opportunities, while adding greater value for the highest value activities?


Data is an asset, and successfully leveraging it is a powerful differentiator. Legal departments are drowning in data, but instead of seeing this as a challenge, you should view it as an opportunity. Putting latent data to use can enable your legal department to provide better, faster and more cost-effective services to your business. This article provides a small glimpse into how legal departments can leverage data to produce powerful Business Intelligence insights. To learn more, contact our team:


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