Building an Experience Database: Lessons Learned From the Battlefield

On Wednesday, May 19th, an energetic group of legal marketers gathered at the Grand Hyatt in Washington DC to hear an experienced panel discuss the ins and outs of building an experience database. The panelists-Yolanda Cartusciello (Debevoise & Plimpton), Monica F. Ulzheimer (Sutherland Asbill & Brennan) and Lisa M. Simon (Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck) - were each in varying stages of implementing experience databases at their firms, thus offering a well-balanced take on the process. The PowerPoint presentation accompanying their discussion is posted on the LMA Capital Chapter's website here. The related article (same name as the presentation) was published inStrategies, March 2010, V12.N03.

The presentation began with by ensuring that everyone in the audience was on common ground. The "what" and "why" (definition of an experience database and reasons and benefits for building one) were covered quickly in order to get to the larger discussion of challenges and roadblocks of getting started. Notable points during this section of the program included being sure to do a firm and cultural audit (to garner buy-in) as well as searching for the technology that fits the way your firm uses its data. Whether creating a home-grown database or customizing an off-the-shelf product, legal marketers can overcome a lot of hurdles by finding a solution that accommodates their firm's needs without necessarily inflicting the trauma of a complete overhaul of the way data is stored,  accessed and utilized.

Another way to avoid a potential roadblock is to sit down with the attorneys and secretaries at your firm to help obtain and keep information current. Having a collection of stored experience (e.g. in a spreadsheet) can save quite a bit of time during the database research and implementation process. Attorney involvement and buy-in through collaboration is crucial throughout the process; the database should always align with your firm's larger objectives.

The panel explained that experience databases can run upwards of $250,000 or more for a "Cadillac" off-the-shelf system or hundreds or even thousands of hours for a system built in-house. What works best depends on the particular law firm and the users.

Take home points:
  • Start small and get quick wins,
  • Get early executive and attorney buy-in,
  • Do your homework,
  • Communicate successes, and
  • Manage expectations.
The construction of an experience database is never really complete as the data and the way a firm uses it continuously evolves. However, having one can save legal marketers plenty of time and effort. 

By Kristin McCants, director of marketing at Watt, Tieder, Hoffar & Fitzgerald, for the May/June Issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter
Recent Stories
Member Profile: Jenna Schiappacasse

LMA Mid-Atlantic Region Conference – See You in D.C. on November 6!

Show and Tell: A Writing Workshop for Legal Marketers