Undeniably, we live in a world where information is king. Each new form of technology we embrace (smartphones, tablets, and apps), increases our already unparalleled access to all manner of data related to our health, finances, utilities, and social lives. We’ve become ‘remote-controllers’ of many aspects of our environment and circumstance, and can affect/avert one unwanted outcome or another, often at the ‘tap-of-a-button’.
Of course, the same level of access and assistance has long been expected of the technology deployed to manage/administer Barristers Chambers. Detailed analysis of financials, trends, KPIs, has been common practice for Chambers Executives and Committees for many years.
However, the increased level of access to personal data for users outside of the management sphere, has resulted in a far greater individual awareness of personal performance, online presence, and the positive value of initiatives like active digital marketing campaigns. There is a new expectation from those looking towards management teams for leadership, for them to be provided with more useful information, available at the ‘tap-of-a-button’. Members crave access to data that will allow them to hone and improve their practices. Clerks desire quick, yet powerful, graphical analysis of data they can rely upon to help review individual/chambers performance. Traditional financial reports, or tallies of cases by source, are all well and good, but users at all levels want more.
Chambers are therefore, tasked with meeting those needs by capturing and providing more. The crucial question is what information to provide and how best to deliver it?
In recent times, The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has campaigned to increase Chambers awareness of their regulatory responsibilities relating to Equality & Diversity and Fair Allocation of Work. In summary, the BSB Equality Rules Handbook states:
‘Chambers has to record whether the work came into chambers marked for a particular barrister/pupil, or whether it was allocated, and if so, who it was allocated to and who was responsible for allocating the work’.
Whilst these requirements have been in play for quite some time; recently, the fact that the BSB has (albeit gently), raised the spectre of being labelled ‘non-compliant’, has focused Chambers on ensuring the data required to fulfil the regulatory responsibility is being regularly captured and made available.
Some management teams in Chambers however, have seized this opportunity and instructed their clerks to raise the bar and go one step further. They have shrewdly reacted to the increased competitiveness of the Bar Market, by harnessing an additional, vital, stream of information relating to the fair allocation of work. Information that allows them to view their business in a completely different light.
Those sets have recognised that gathering data on ‘the reason why and by whom’ an individual is allocated to a particular piece of work, really only captures a snap-shot of a much wider picture. For every successful instruction recorded (the reporting value of which is not in itself in dispute), there will undeniably be many more instances where individuals are offered, but refused.
Of course, some recorded reasons may be consequential of unavoidable unavailability, or instances where work is internally declined (based on the sufficiency of remuneration). Others however, may provide indications of work being lost to competitors on the basis of cost or experience.
The statistics pivoting around opportunity related data, can undoubtedly improve Chambers understanding of the fairness of how, and to whom, work is allocated. From a practice management perspective however, the insight achievable through analysis of this data, is equally as profound. Identifying and recording lost opportunities, opens up new methods of detecting weaknesses in Chamber’s armoury.
Yet, despite this data being extremely valuable, under normal circumstances in most Chambers, it is lost. This is primarily down to the hurdles that must be overcome for Chambers wishing to collate such data.
Recording any additional data takes ‘Time’, and the ‘Software’ to do so. Demands on clerks are increasing year-on-year, and there is an understandable reluctance to take on more responsibility without careful consideration of the impact it may have elsewhere. Clerks need functionality at their fingertips to assist them to record information quickly, and deliver it in a format that can be manipulated/presented, yet is easily digestible. Until Clerks feel like they have the time, and the right software providing them with the functionality they need, the extra data will most likely go unrecorded forever.
There has to be a ‘willingness’ and ‘ability’ for clerks to implement the harvesting of lost opportunity data. The phrase ‘you get in, what you get out’, cannot be applied with any more accuracy or relevance, than to the correlation between the collection of data and the usefulness of the reports and analysis relying up on it. Without the right tools for the job, clerks could not do the job required of them to the high standard they would want, and the quality of the information recorded would be a direct reflection of the same.
Chambers management teams therefore, need to ask themselves; does our software provide the innovative streamlined data entry & reporting tools relating to Opportunities data, that our clerks need? Do the providers of our software have a team that understand our requirements, and constantly strive to deliver new features to ensure our clerks are both ‘Willing’ and ‘Able’? There are applications available that do, so if the answer is ‘No’, perhaps it is time for a change…
Damien Breingan, Product Manager – LEX Chambers Management. firstname.lastname@example.org