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    February
    11
    2020

    Solutions: Using Data to Drive Business Decisions

    Here are tips for using statistics, such as case filing and resolution data, to make decisions about law firm business development.

    Lori Dorn

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    Thought leaders advise lawyers to use data to make business decisions for their law firms. Business development professionals suggest using data to grow market share. Knowing which practice areas are hot allows lawyers to seize opportunities and determine how to best use their time to expand business as they work on their law firms’ business strategy. But, where can you actually obtain data to create a plan for your firm?

    One source of information about practice area trends is the Wisconsin Lawyer, particularly the annual “What’s Hot, What’s Not” practice trends articles, which include qualitative data based on interviews, anecdotes, and observations of lawyers and legal-industry professionals.

    However, that information might not be enough. For optimal data-driven business decisions, you should couple qualitative information with quantitative data, that is, data focused on numbers and statistics. Both qualitative and quantitative data can help you make informed decisions to establish successful business plans and goals.

    Where to Find Quantitative Data

    The first place to look for meaningful quantitative data is within your own firm. Use past trends to forecast future results, just as precedent is used to make educated predictions on future outcomes for cases. Analyzing patterns and facts from your own data and then developing strategies and activities based on data can help you optimize profitability, productivity, and efficiencies in your firm’s operations.

    Finding data to help determine the firm’s market share and identify business opportunities can be more difficult. The Wisconsin Court System’s website provides qualitative data that may be helpful. The site contains summary statistical information on Wisconsin circuit court activity, including a statewide summary and data by county and district from 1998 through 2018.1 The site provides links to reports and information on the following, both statewide and by county and district:

    • Caseload summary;

    • Age of pending cases;

    • Disposition summary;

    • Age of cases at disposition;

    • Civil disposition summary;

    • Probate disposition summary;

    • Juvenile caseload summary;

    • Traffic and forfeiture disposition summary:

    • Felony disposition summary;

    • Misdemeanor disposition summary; and

    • Clearance rate.

    Lori Kannenberg Dorncom ldorn staffordlaw Lori Kannenberg Dorn, CLM, is the director of administration at Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, Madison and Milwaukee.

    The circuit court statistics allow you to see trends by practice areas for civil, family, and criminal matters. The reports include how many cases were disposed; how many went to trial, settled, or were dismissed; and the median age of cases at disposition. This information may help you establish goals to increase efficiencies in processing cases through to conclusion. Comparing the number of new matters filed in your county to the number of new matters you opened by practice area can help you establish goals for increasing your market share.

    The Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC) is another good resource for finding statistics, on unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, and equal rights matters. At http://lirc.wisconsin.gov/lirc_stats.htm, you will find data from 1995 to 2018 on the number of appeals received, the number of decisions issued by appellant type, and the time taken to issue decisions. The equal-rights information includes a breakdown on the number of different types of employment matters decided.

    Examples of Data Analysis

    Criminal Defense. A lawyer in Marathon County who focuses on criminal defense has noticed a substantial uptick in the number of new felony matters she has opened over the past few years. She is thinking about adding another lawyer to her firm and would like quantitative information to help make this decision. Using Wisconsin Court System statistics, she sees that the trend she has experienced is consistent with market trends both in the state of Wisconsin and in Marathon County.2 (See Table 1.)

    Table 1: Felony Matters Opened in Wisconsin and in Marathon County

    Wisconsin

    2013

    2014

    2015

    2016

    2017

    2018

    % Change (2013-2018)

    Felony

    36,986

    36,986

    38,129

    39,819

    42,932

    43,550

    18%

    Misdemeanor

    49,825

    49,825

    49,237

    47,386

    47,520

    47,500

    -5%

    Criminal Traffic

    24,768

    24,768

    24,648

    25,838

    25,061

    23,668

    -4%

    TOTAL CRIMINAL

    111,579

    111,579

    112,014

    113,043

    115,513

    11,4718

    3%

    Marathon County

    2013

    2014

    2015

    2016

    2017

    2018

    % Change (2013-2018)

    Felony

    1,041

    1,065

    1,200

    1,377

    1,434

    1,415

    36%

    Misdemeanor

    1,817

    1,815

    1,868

    1,906

    1,907

    1,965

    8%

    Criminal Traffic

    669

    584

    594

    639

    594

    601

    -10%

    TOTAL CRIMINAL

    3,527

    3,464

    3,662

    3,922

    3,935

    3,981

    11%

    The lawyer can compare these numbers to the number of criminal matters she has filed in Marathon County to gauge her market share. Digging deeper into the courts’ statistics, she can identify specific types of criminal cases on the rise. (See Table 2.) Given the volume and somewhat steady increase in the number of drug-related offenses, the lawyer may consider hiring someone with experience handling those matters.

    Table 2: Types of Criminal Cases Opened in Marathon County

    Criminal Categories

    2013

    2014

    2015

    2016

    2017

    2018

    1st Degree Intentional Homicide

    1

    4

    1

    2

    1

    4

    1st Degree Reckless Homicide

    1

    0

    4

    4

    5

    1

    Other Homicide

    0

    1

    0

    1

    0

    2

    Substantial/Aggravated Battery

    24

    13

    27

    18

    17

    21

    Battery

    31

    26

    16

    28

    16

    13

    Other Bodily Security

    43

    41

    38

    38

    46

    36

    Sexual Assault

    13

    18

    18

    24

    23

    25

    Kidnap/Hostage/False Imprison

    10

    13

    14

    16

    14

    18

    Stalking

    5

    5

    4

    0

    1

    3

    Intimidate Witness/Victim

    7

    10

    12

    12

    6

    9

    1st Degree Sexual Assault-Child

    12

    14

    18

    27

    19

    19

    2nd Degree Sexual Assault-Child

    14

    16

    11

    17

    13

    23

    Child Abuse

    28

    26

    37

    40

    37

    37

    Other Crimes Against Children

    23

    31

    21

    30

    22

    46

    Armed Robbery

    4

    2

    13

    6

    6

    4

    Unarmed Robbery

    3

    0

    2

    4

    2

    2

    Burglary

    63

    47

    56

    36

    33

    19

    Theft

    74

    59

    63

    78

    71

    75

    Operate without Consent

    22

    13

    12

    17

    21

    25

    Criminal Damage

    3

    1

    0

    1

    10

    2

    Arson

    1

    1

    3

    0

    4

    6

    Weapons/Explosives

    14

    16

    12

    10

    6

    41

    Other Public Safety Crimes

    14

    15

    20

    29

    27

    33

    Drug Manufacture/Deliver

    43

    55

    50

    78

    57

    67

    Drug Possession

    131

    148

    207

    269

    313

    282

    Other Drug Offenses

    20

    41

    36

    28

    29

    12

    Forgery

    30

    36

    40

    27

    30

    25

    Worthless Checks

    1

    1

    3

    1

    1

    3

    Other Fraud

    4

    6

    4

    2

    2

    3

    Perjury

    2

    0

    1

    0

    1

    0

    Escape

    15

    8

    8

    11

    8

    12

    Bail Jumping

    267

    266

    312

    412

    420

    378

    Extradition

    18

    19

    14

    14

    20

    27

    Felony Traffic

    70

    74

    69

    62

    83

    95

    Sexually Violent Person

    0

    1

    1

    0

    1

    1

    Other Felony

    25

    25

    16

    41

    55

    44

    Unidentified Felony

    1

    1

    1

    6

    5

    3

    Family Law Matters. Another Marathon County lawyer who focuses on handling family law matters has noticed a decline in the number of divorce matters he opened within the past couple of years. Peers have told him they have noticed the same trend. The Wisconsin Court System’s statistical information can be used to learn whether the trend is specific to the lawyer and the people with whom he has spoken or whether he is losing market share to other lawyers in the area. (See Table 3.)

    Table 3: Family Law Matters Opened in Marathon County

    Marathon County

    2013

    2014

    2015

    2016

    2017

    2018

    % Change (2013-2018)

    Divorce

    451

    442

    442

    394

    405

    415

    -8%

    Anul/Legal Separation

    20

    11

    23

    14

    13

    15

    -25%

    UIFSA-Incoming

    23

    12

    24

    24

    29

    15

    -35%

    Support & Maint. Actions

    392

    422

    333

    261

    383

    274

    -30%

    UIFSA-Outgoing

    0

    0

    0

    0

    0

    0

    Paternity

    145

    133

    102

    95

    169

    124

    -14%

    Paternity/Acknowledgment

    1

    1

    1

    1

    0

    5

    400%

    Action Mod/Enf Judgment

    2

    1

    4

    7

    0

    1

    -50%

    Unclassified

    6

    3

    6

    12

    6

    12

    100%

    TOTAL FAMILY

    1,040

    1,025

    935

    808

    1,005

    861

    -17%

    Comparing these statistics to the number of family law matters opened in Wisconsin shows a similar decline. (See Table 4.)3

    Table 4: Family Law Matters Opened in Marathon County and in Wisconsin

    Total Family Law Matters

    2013

    2014

    2015

    2016

    2017

    2018

    % Change (2013-2018)

    Marathon County

    1,040

    1,025

    935

    808

    1,005

    861

    -17%

    Wisconsin

    45,270

    44,446

    44,171

    42,711

    40,636

    38,542

    -15%

    The lawyer may use this information to determine a business development strategy to capture more of the market. Or, he may decide to investigate building a new practice area.

    Conclusion

    Lawyers should continue to examine, analyze, and question data-driven decisions. Often, reviewing data will lead to more questions. For example, merely because the number of complaints filed for drug offenses has risen in Marathon County over the past five years does not necessarily mean that they will continue to increase. Considering additional data from external sources, such as general economic, social, political, and technological trends, can help you evaluate whether trends will continue into the future.

    Meet Our Contributors

    What is one of your greatest professional accomplishments?

    Lori Kannenberg DornI’m proud to have served on the working group that conceptualized the need and presented a proposal to the State Bar’s Board of Governors for establishing the Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP). As an active member of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA), and past president of the Wisconsin Association of Legal Administrators (WALA), I helped build a partnership between ALA, WALA, and the State Bar’s Law Practice Section (now the Solo/Small Firm & General Practice Section).

    It’s a pleasure to now serve as chair of the LOMAP Committee. As a certified legal manager with around 30 years of experience, this position will allow me to continue sharing my knowledge and passions for superior client service, legal professional well-being, and effective business strategy to inspire and support other law firm business leaders in their service to clients and their firms.

    com ldorn staffordlaw Lori Kannenberg Dorn, Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, Madison and Milwaukee.

    Become a contributor! Are you working on an interesting case? Have a practice tip to share? There are several ways to contribute to Wisconsin Lawyer. To discuss a topic idea, contact Managing Editor Karlé Lester at (800) 444-9404, ext. 6127, or email org klester wisbar wisbar klester org. Check out our writing and submission guidelines.

    Endnotes

    1 According to Tyler Brandt, with the Office of Court Operations, data on 2019 statistics will be posted on the site in mid-February 2020.

    2 Based on a report with court statistics for January-June 2019, it appears the number of criminal complaints filed for 2019 may be lower than 2018 for both the state of Wisconsin (108,496 opened) and Marathon County (3,652 opened).

    3 Based on a report with court statistics for January-June 2019, it appears the number of family law matters opened for 2019 will likely be lower than 2018 for both the state of Wisconsin (18,609 matters opened) and Marathon County (345 matters opened).




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