Power BI for the Legal Sector – How to maximise billable time and gain business advantage.

Posted by on Feb 13, 2018 in Customer Post, Law in the Cloud, Microsoft | 0 comments

Power BI for the Legal Sector – How to maximise billable time and gain business advantage.

This week we are delighted to include a guest post from one of our customers, Chris Cato who is Operations Director at Howell-Jones LLP based in Surrey, UK.  In this article Chris explains how Power BI can be used to gain data insights that will help increase billable time and maximise your competitive edge.

Data management and visualisation challenges aren’t unique to law firms, but the legal sector in particular does struggle with massive amounts of internally produced data. Often that results in the difficult and time-consuming task of analysing and reporting on that data because the business recognises that the resulting insights are a hidden gem to inform decision-making. And in a highly competitive industry, that’s vital. Add to that mix, the varying information requirements within a business and the need to show complex data in a visual way.  Until now I had discounted most data visualisation solutions and BI dashboards based on cost, knowledge and IT infrastructure required.

Power BI – Low cost, Fast impact.

Power BI came onto my radar and was about to blow away my preconceptions about ‘SME ready’ BI solutions.  It’s a set of business analytics tools, fully integrated and free with Microsoft Office 365. It connects to any data source – including our Case Management tools, HR systems, SQL, Azure, and even bespoke apps; simply and swiftly converting complex data into graphs and dashboards, consumable from the web and any device. Furthermore, personalised dashboards with complex data can be spun up in minutes by non-IT staff to deliver insights throughout the firm.  The limit for what’s possible with Power BI appears to be my own imagination and it’s starting to fuel some powerful opportunities.

Opportunity 1: Insights in Everyone’s Hands

Imagine equipping the management team with high-level visual reports which update in real-time, which also enable them drill down to lawyer level as required. These can include the usual metrics like new matters, fees v targets, billable hours v targets, aged debt etc, as well as non-standard intelligence like time from enquiry to billing, cross-department work referrals, and more. The other benefit is to enable dynamic information to be shown visually without the need for manual reporting or ongoing data refresh. Financial insights previously locked within the management team can be surfaced and shared around the business. Everyone becomes aware and accountable for the contribution they make to the overall KPIs and are able to keep on top of progress.


Opportunity 2: Maximising Billable time

Team leaders can apply that same accountability in a wider context, using Power BI to efficiently manage caseloads across entire teams. Where lawyers have less active files, work can be distributed to maximise collective output. Looking at performance indicators like aged WIP, aged debt, time recorded, fees billed v targets, and adjusting caseload accordingly directly impacts billable time delivered.

I recently witnessed a case where a ‘Wills and Probate’ team had increased in size, but turnover wasn’t growing proportionately. With Power BI, the firm was able to identify that the number of subsidised wills being drafted had dramatically spiked at certain times in the year. The team could restructure its services capping the amount of free or low-value work being delivered each month and release billable time for higher-value services where demand was expected to rise. The result was immediate – increased turnover per lawyer and overall profitability.


Opportunity 3: Efficient Decision-Making

People equipped with knowledge and insight can make faster decisions with the utmost confidence in the data they have based them upon. They can plan for busy times, and report with insight at their fingertips. They can make forward-looking decisions that grow the business and deliver a distinct advantage.

At my own firm, the Marketing team now have a dashboard to monitor inbound enquiries, reporting on the source in real-time. They can analyse the value of new enquiries based on individual campaigns, how they convert to new clients and the lifetime value of those marketing investments. The real power kicks in when they use it to divert spending or increase focus directly based on business objectives, for example scaling down ‘conveyancing’ investment over holiday periods when the market slows down, and divert it into activity like ‘Divorce’ services when demand increases. Those decisions can be taken in seconds simply because this data is available, digestible and easily manipulated, where needed.


Opportunity 4: Compliance with confidence

GDPR is right around the corner and a key planning focus for many businesses. Undeniably it brings big changes to how we operate, store, record, use and share data. Whilst there are still so many unknowns, having a customer dashboard already built around its requirements is enabling us to very quickly get a handle on our position and the specifics we need to address. It will simply be invaluable.

More broadly that capability is already helping our firm to meet requirements in other areas such as Anti-Money Laundering. At a glance we can report on the number of AML and PEP searches and ensure we minimise the potential for failures.


Advice for getting started

The potential for creating custom data solutions through Power BI for every part of the law firm is endless. But the ease with which dashboards can be created is undeniably an opportunity and a challenge. You’ll find that once Power BI is available to business users, you’ll be inundated with requests for bespoke dashboards. So, here’s some tips to help you get started:

  • Think big but start small

Make lists of current KPIs/ reports and prioritise, keeping in mind which insights are going to make a real difference to your organisation’s operations, turnover and profit

  • Seek experienced support

Find someone to help who understands the types of financial information/KPI’s law firms produce. Power BI consultants without that experience will probably not be able to produce the dashboards you need

  • Connect your Microsoft applications

Consider which Microsoft applications – e.g. SQL, SharePoint, Office 365, Teams, Forms, Flow – your Power BI instance needs to connect with – when they align you realise the full potential

  • Keep audience front of mind

Don’t get drawn into the creative capabilities of Power BI but focus on building dashboards suitable for the audience. Too many variations or complicated data visualisation will lead to loss of user focus.

  • Testing is critical

Ensure each report is fully tested and completed before you launch it.

If you want to know more…

If you’re interested in learning more about Power BI, register now for AspiraCloud’s half-day event “Making Your Business Data Work For You” on March 9th 2018 at Microsoft’s London office.

Register here

Or if you would like to discuss a fully-funded half day discovery workshop, please contact AspiraCloud at hello@aspiracloud.com

The data shown on this blog is for the dummy law firm set up by our partner AspiraCloud. The data is not real or a representation of any live company data. You can contact AspiraCloud for access to this feature rich example dashboard.

Chris Cato is Operations Director and a member of the Senior Management Team for Howell Jones LLP based in Kingston Upon Thames.

He is responsible for IT, facilities and operations functions across the firm. Chris managed the firm’s move to the Azure Cloud and implemented Power BI dashboards across the firm.

Chris has over 17 years experience within the legal sector and holds a Bachelors Degree in Business & Management from the University of Essex.

AspiraCloud is Microsoft Gold Cloud Platform and Productivity Partner based in UK.

We specialise in helping organisations and businesses, who have extra levels of regulation or compliance, in the following sectors: Education, Not for Profit, Pharmaceutical, Professional Services and Management. Our goal is to assist customers whether they are taking their first steps to adopt the cloud, or working with you to strategically drive, support and embed Office 365 and Azure across all aspects of your business.

We have experience in many Microsoft Technologies including Azure IaaS, SharePoint, Exchange, Skype for Business, Information Protection and Rights Management, Backup and Recovery Services, and Power Bi. We have partnerships with key industry leaders including, Kemp, Nintex, Sharegate and Mandarine Learning.

AspiraCloud are training partners with Learning Tree International. We provide training for Learning Tree on all aspects of SharePoint from a comprehensive introduction, branding and customisation through to, application design, development and business intelligence.

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