Attorney and law firm technology consultant Jeff Krause delivers a plenary talk on "Moneyball for Lawyers."
Oct. 25, 2019 – As the World Series heats up, attorney and technology guru Jeff Krause threw fastballs at the Wisconsin Solo and Small Firm Conference (WSSFC), explaining how the “Moneyball” concept can help law firms see things differently, with data.
Moneyball, based on a true story (book and film), describes a strategy employed by the Oakland Athletics Baseball Club in the early 2000s. A mid-market team with a limited budget, A’s general manager Billy Beane devised a new strategy: use stats to assess player value, such as on-base percentage, departing from traditional scouting methods.
Instead of big name players like Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon, who left the A’s for high priced contracts, Beane assembled a team of players based on data, at lower cost. The A’s went on to clinch the division title, and changed the business of baseball.
Krause uses that Moneyball concept to highlight opportunities for solo and small firms, which may be looking at surface numbers, such as revenue and expenses, without understanding how a deeper data analysis can help them be more profitable.
“The concept grew out of baseball, but it’s about business,” Krause said. “It’s about business because it’s about using data to make smart choices and smart decisions about your business. And in many cases, it’s about looking at data in different way.”
Krause said numbers tell a story, and they don’t lie. When you are thinking in Moneyball terms, you make decisions by diving deeper. “You have to find out what those numbers are, and sometimes we don’t really know,” Krause said.
Milwaukee attorney Sheila Thobani (right) networks at the Wisconsin Solo and Small Firm Conference.
For instance, most solo and small firm lawyers have a general idea of the firm’s bottom line, the amount of profit. “What they don’t really know is what goes into that. How you get there. That’s Moneyball,” Krause said.
Krause’s presentation examined how law firms arrive at the bottom line, and it comes down to five things, including generating client leads and conversion rates.
“I have a number of things going at any given time to generate more leads and a number of things going to convert. It keeps me focused on what I need to do,” Krause said. “It’s a simple concept, but it’s a different way of looking at things.”
Krause, a featured speaker at the three-day (Oct. 24-26) WSSFC in Wisconsin Dells, said once you have the right data sets, you can create strategies to improve in the areas you may not think enough about, such as realized billing or collection.
“It’s a different way to take action on numbers and not just wish for more clients, more revenue, and more profitability,” he said. “Those don’t happen in a vacuum.”
Persuading Judges and Juries
Wisconsin Appeals Court Judge Michael Fitzpatrick, a trial judge for a decade, unsealed a bounty of tips to persuade both judges and juries in the opening plenary.
From compelling trial advocacy to brief writing, Judge Fitzpatrick let attendees peek inside the mind of a judge, which is what it takes. “Think like a judge,” he said.
But first on his list: credibility. “If you are asking the judge to take a leap of faith in your client’s direction, give them confidence you that they are taking a leap in the right direction,” said Judge Fitzpatrick. “Be a straight shooter on the facts and law.”
Remember, judges are generalists. “They are looking for help in your area of expertise,” he said. “Don’t assume the judge knows the substantive or procedural framework.”
Wisconsin Appeals Court Judge Michael Fitzpatrick, a former trial judge, provides insight on persuading judges and juries.
In other words, do everything you can make the judge’s job easier. Be the reliable lawyer who cites the right precedents and face, head-on, the law that may be against you. Explain the burden of proof and persuasion. Know your facts. Be prepared.
“If a judge doesn’t think you are prepared, they will stop listening to you,” said Judge Fitzpatrick, who also discussed how lawyers can better persuade juries.
“Have an overarching theme for the jurors to see the case through,” he said. “We as attorneys have a construct to understand something. For instance, in a tort case, its duty, breach of duty, cause and damages. The jury doesn’t have that coming in.”
“If you can explain the case, not in legal terms necessarily, but in factual terms on why your client did something, the jury with have empathy for your client and understand the framework that you want to put the question in. That’s the first part of it.”
“The second part is you have to have the facts to fill in that framework. If you don’t have both, you are not going to do well with the jury,” said Judge Fitzpatrick, who discussed more than 20 topics, providing knowledge and insight only judges can give.
Michael Brandwein, an attorney, author, educator and communications expert, as well as professional magician, escapes from a straight jacket, like Harry Houdini.
More at WSSFC
More than 350 people attended the conference at the Kalahari Resort, catching up with old colleagues and friends, mingling and networking with new ones. Social events, such as dine-arounds, give conference goers numerous options to spend their evenings.
During the day, amidst the colorful leaves of autumn outside, many speakers and exhibitors dished up products, services, and substantive knowledge.
Middleton-based business coach A.J. Sue and Milwaukee lawyer Anthony Murdock joined Madison attorney Erin Ogden to discuss the advantages of being a small firm, and strategies for building and developing a firm that reflects your value proposition.
Business coach AJ Sue (right), and attorneys Anthony Murdock and Erin Ogden discuss the advantages and challenges of being a small firm.
Part of that is building trust among the clients you want. “First you trust, then you transact,” said Sue. “Trust isn’t about what you do. It’s about who you are.”
Sue said the best way to earn trust is to be authentic. Authenticity will lead to trust among those who like you, and they’ll want to do business with you.
But once the clients come in, cash flow is king. “Cash flow is like blood. If you don’t have it, you’re not surviving,” said Sue, who noted that law firms should prioritize billing and collection efforts to ensure you are paid promptly for the work you’ve done.
Attorney and law firm technology consultant Brent Hoeft discussed law firm security basics – simple things lawyers can do, cheap or free, that will better protect the firm. That includes keeping software updated, passwords strong and unique (using password managers), and implementing two-factor authentication to access online accounts.
Wausau attorney Sarah Ruffi, who just published a book, discussed designing the law firm that fits your life. Madison Attorney Jeff Glazer talked project management and smart contracts. A panel of tech gurus provided 100 tips in 50 minutes. And so much.
From practice management and technology to substantive law, work-life balance, and ethics there is something for every one of the 2019 WSSFC. Selected programs will be webcasted in the near future. Check the WisBar Marketplace for details. The WSSFC is a State Bar of Wisconsin event, in partnership with a host of generous sponsors.
Congratulations to Kathy Brost, 2019 Lederer Award recipient! The award recognizes sustained, selfless service benefiting solo and small-firm practitioners across Wisconsin. Pictured: Kathy is joined by past recipients, from left, Paul Angel, Nancy Trueblood, Nerino Petro, and Thomas Watson representing the Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company (WILMIC).