I have to confess that I have a soft spot in my heart for American Lawyer Media. Their flagship publication American Lawyer and I both entered law firms at about the same time. Three decades ago, when the latest issue of the American Lawyer arrived, I had the distinct sense that it should have been kept behind the circulation desk and covered in a brown wrapper. By 1980 standards it was a tawdry publication. ALM injected personality, scandal, and ungentlemanly financial comparisons into the rarefied hallways of Wall Street law firms. It had the same “shock factor” as the early postings on the Above the Law blog. No one wanted to be seen reading it and yet everyone had to take a peek.
In the past 40 years ALM was also a pioneer in the now burgeoning world of law firm analytics. They defined the Profits per Partner metric which for better or worse has become the surrogate for law firm success in the 21st Century.
When ALM was repurchased by the Wasserstein investment group in 2014, I worried that the owners might not invest in the ongoing improvement of the ALM platform. The launch of the new Legal Compass platform suggests that they recognize that there is an insatiable market for competitive insights. Legal Compass aggregates the massive archive of Rival Edge data and ALM legal intelligence surveys and married that data with external intelligence mined from dockets, SEC filings, law firm websites and social media. They have hired data scientists to develop an impressive suite of interactive charts, maps and data visualization tools.
According to Andrew Neblett, President of ALM Intelligence, “There has been a substantial expansion of data and the product development team to deliver the new platform. It was a massive task to normalize, structure, consolidate and validate the data from numerous ALM archival datasets and spreadsheets.
ALM has always been an important source of law firm data but frankly their platforms were painfully primitive, inflexible and inevitably frustrating for the user.
The most obvious impact for current subscribers is that two legacy products, Rival Edge and ALM Legal Intelligence are being phased out and replaced with Legal Compass. But Legal Compass offers much more than the sum of those two parts.
Legal Compass Features
There is no way to describe all the new features and reports available in the Legal Compass platform. The dashboard itself is organized around common tasks: recruiting, competitive analysis, benchmarking, client prospecting and firm expansion. Research tasks include law firm profiles, lawyer searching, surveys/rankings, lateral moves, office trends, law firm comparisons, company profiles, firm trends, event trends, analyst reports, ALM 200, NLJ 500 and law school trends.
Benchmarking Tools – ALM data forms the backbone of the benchmarking tool which enables firms to compare their own performance against peers and the broader market using unique financial and operational KPIs and a summary of each firm’s, rankings, practice areas, financial for the past, 10 years. In order to provide context each firm or group of firms is compared to the overall market using ALM 100 and 200. RPL, PPL data in scatterplot graphs.
Office Trends Tool– Identify new players and how firms are strengthening or weakening in critical markets and practice areas using interactive maps and charts.
Lateral moves tool – reports partner and associate moves by law firm.
Events and News – Monitors the practice areas and topics competitors are promoting through events, news and thought leadership.
Diversity Reports – Leverages the archive of diversity data to benchmark against peer firms and the broader industry trends. Diversity metrics –Since clients are looking more closely at diversity in law firms they have the diversity metrics which they collect from their diversity data. The report offers comparative diversity metrics for each selected firm.
According to Eric Ryles, VP, Customer Solutions, ALM is pursuing a very aggressive development schedule. They plan to release new features every month for the next eight months. These new features will include “law firm intelligence decks” or custom reports and reports on law school graduate career trends. One of the most exciting new modules will be a law firm merger modelling tool which will enable law firm leaders to model a variety of merger scenarios involving specific law firms.
My Two Cents
Since lateral hiring of increasing importance and yet often proves to be disappointing to both firms and the lateral lawyers themselves, this is an issue in need of new insights. I suggest enhancing the lateral tool with additional metrics to help firms and laterals more accurately predict successful matches. I also suggest enhancing the laterals tools with in-house lawyer moves. Rival Edge has been one of the best but perhaps least known sources of in-house lawyer staffing information. The holy grail would be to expand the company information to include GC organization charts which would associate specific in-house lawyers with specific areas of responsibility e.g. contracting, regulatory, Intellectual property, etc.