METADATA: How do you know work is getting done? If you’re satisfied simply seeing bodies in chairs, you could be missing the point. Here’s how data can help you.

Measuring Employee Productivity: Which Data, How Much, and What to Watch

My firm is one of the largest PI firms in the Southeast, and our Founder, Jim Farrin, firmly believes that a law firm is only as good as its people. Coupled with this belief is a strong reliance on data to stimulate and sustain firm performance.

“We pay very close attention to data and measurements in every action we take.
From intake to disbursal, very little goes unmeasured.”
– Jim Farrin, President and CEO of the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin

 

For a closer look at the nine key metrics we track at a firm level, read Jim’s guide “9 Metrics I Monitored to Build a Powerhouse Plaintiffs’ Firm.”

As the Vice President of Operations at a law firm with 50+ attorneys and 150+ staff members, I look at data every day to tell me how our team is performing. And then I act on that data. I analyze it to objectively determine employee performance, I utilize it to identify and resolve productivity issues, and I share it with employees and supervisors in performance reviews.

From that perspective, let me pose the following questions about data and employee productivity:

  • How much data do you need to compile a fair picture of employee productivity?

  • What type of data should you be looking at to determine how productive your staff is?

Note that I rely heavily on GrowPath, our firm’s case management software, to help me compile a fair picture of employee performance, and I will provide a few examples of the types of data it gives me and how I use it in hopes that you can utilize your case management system similarly.

I’ve written more on this subject, so if you’d like more information, you can read my entire piece on measuring law firm employee productivity here.

How Much Data Do You Need to Compile a Fair Picture of Employee Productivity?

This is a great question to ask, though it’s not one that is always asked. I have seen managers react to a single data point with that “Aha! I knew it!” gleam in their eyes. That’s when it’s time to take a step back and remember that we don’t want to skewer our employees, we want to evaluate them so that we can empower them. Using too little data to jump to conclusions about employee performance is almost as bad as not using any.

So how much is enough? For this answer, I turn to GrowPath founder and law firm management thought leader Eric Sanchez. Eric cautions against relying on insufficient data and recommends that his clients look at a minimum of one quarter’s worth of data (and ideally a year’s worth) to obtain an objective picture of an employee’s productivity.

If you have at least a quarter of data, you have a fairly comprehensive view of that person’s work habits and productivity. For a more in-depth look at how to measure employee productivity, check out Eric’s 22-minute masterclass The Ultimate Guide to Measuring Productivity in a Personal Injury Law Firm.

What Type of Data Should You Be Looking at to Determine How Productive Your Staff Is?

At our firm, we track individual performance against KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that focus on the 4 Cs – communication, case access, case progression, and cost and fee tracking – to measure our attorney and paralegal productivity. 

It’s important that you select KPIs that make sense for your firm and align with your firm’s objectives. If you want to improve client satisfaction, perhaps you focus on communication KPIs, such as “client contact made,” for example.

The KPIs you select should also be ownable, meaning they should be actions that the employee can control. We all have our preferences (mine are below) but there are many to choose from. You can peruse our list of 29 Key Performance Indicators and select the ones that matter most to your firm.

We often track different KPIs for attorneys than we do for paralegals because each position has different responsibilities and activities. For attorneys, I like to keep an eye on “case views” and “notes created” to see how often they are interacting with their clients and what specifically they are doing within each case.

For paralegals, I track “medical records requested” and “ledger entries made” to get a handle on their daily activity levels. These are just a few of the metrics I track, and they allow me to objectively (and quickly) get a feel for how productive each team member is.

And we don’t just track KPIs. Measuring productivity requires digging deep into data and determining the reason behind the KPI. Lower KPIs can be caused by individual incompetence, or they can also be caused by case overload or institutional issues – things that I can fix to help our employees be more productive.

The Benefits of Productivity Data for Managing a Firm

Having real-time productivity data on hand drives employee performance and gives my firm a competitive advantage. It allows me to:

  • Build best practices across practice areas and job descriptions
    Based on actual data, I can share the successful approaches and work efforts throughout the firm.

  • Uncover organization-wide issues and institute fixes
    If I identify a downward trend in an employee’s productivity, I dig deep into the data to see if performance is being hampered by an unnecessary or duplicative process, and if it is, I work to eliminate that internal constraint.

  • Recognize and reward standout performance
    I use objective performance data to highlight and reward star performers, and I encourage them to share their tips and work habits with the entire team.

  • Understand employee situations better, and take data-driven action
    Factual data allows me to make difficult employee decisions with confidence and helps me know when to correct a performance issue with additional training or take a more serious step.

If you have no way of collecting and analyzing objective data, how do you know when you’re making good or bad decisions? How do you know what’s going on under the surface of your firm? Once you’re able to collect data, you can leverage it to develop your employees, meet your clients’ needs, and grow your firm profitably.

About the Author: Stacie Monahan is Vice President of Operations for the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. She examines and optimizes processes in every area of the firm, from intake to litigation to disbursal and administration. She assesses and implements best practices for entire departments. With more than two decades of experience in operations, processes, and firm management, she is highly skilled at observing inefficient systems and devising and implementing plans to improve them.