For years—decades, really—the legal industry has suffered from a woeful shortage of meaningful, truly informative ratings of law firms. Today we intend to change that.
Introducing the Leopard Law Firm Index, powered by Leopard Solutions and in partnership with Above the Law and Adam Smith, Esq.
What makes the “Leopard Index” different?
First and foremost, it’s the only industry index based on purely quantitative, “un-gameable” datasets that are: (a) numeric; (b) corrected as appropriate for firm size;  (c) not at risk of being compromised by cosmetic adjustments as firms self-report; and (d) not our own secret guesstimates. And we selected each of these datasets for its correlation with an upward trajectory for a law firm.
This weighted suite of factors avoids the invitation to fixate on one or two “headline” numbers, too simplistic in evaluating an enterprise as complex as a law firm. Don’t get us wrong: No question that it’s entertaining to rank firms head to head by revenue, number of lawyers, or other more invidious metrics. We enjoy it as much as you do. But we’ve never confused these rankings with a system that would provide solid insight into the quality or value of the firm’s work or clients’ experiences—or the firm’s own sustainability or fragility. That’s where the Leopard Law Firm Index comes in. (You can register for a free introductory webinar here.)
Data you can act on
We started with the legal industry’s historical, and shocking, paucity of data that firms might use to guide their strategic and business decisions. Pair that with the reality that challenges to firms from all fronts were already building before the “Covid Slingshot” accelerator kicked in, and we thought the time had come to try fixing what we saw as an indefensible state of affairs.
As important as the integrity of the ingredients going into the Leopard Index are the philosophy and purpose we brought to designing it. For our money it had to serve as a useful tool for firm management.
Gross calculations of revenue or size are tangentially, if that, correlated with a law firm’s health, but the Leopard Index takes a quite different approach: Each of our metrics provides a measure of a firm’s vitality and resilience—datasets that go to the heart of a firm’s operational and financial hygiene. For example? (a) The past five-year record of growth/decline in RPL. (b) Average lawyer tenure at a firm. (c) Growth/decline in lawyer headcount. (And more—see below)
Better yet—and unique to ratings in our industry—the Leopard Index is dynamic. As datasets are updated (as often as weekly for some series), the index changes in real-time. No waiting for next year to see what the scorecard says this time around.
The importance and power of introducing the first law firm index driven by continuously updated information may not be immediately obvious, but that has become the way the rest of the world works. Newspapers are no longer updated just once a day when the print edition is finalized; news can break at any time. Similarly, law firms grow, shrink, merge, start up, and dissolve all the time; any self-respecting index should reflect reality on the ground, but the Leopard Index is the first and right now the only one to do so.
The Index is dynamic in another important way. Its design and component parts will continue to evolve, refining and adding criteria to be even more reflective of law firm health. On top of that, more firms will be included as threshold data is received or developed; we’re imposing no arbitrary 250/500/1,000 firm “capacity limit” on the Index.
So why should readers of Adam Smith, Esq. care?
Because now at long last we have a tool for management to assess their firm’s strengths and weaknesses using information they can act on.
Countless are the times firms have asked us, “What are the best practices in the industry?” Through hard-earned experience, we have figured out what they’re really asking is, “What’s the herd doing?” Even when the answer is readily available—that is, if the shortage of industry data doesn’t stymie you right there—the answer to the question is never what the “best” practices are: It’s what the lowest common denominator is.
The Leopard Law Firm Index suffers no such constraint. You can see your firm’s score on each metric, but also how high or low other firms fall, opening up your possibility horizon.
At long last, the law firm industry has a firm index (a) based on objective data, (b) correlated with firm sustainability and strength, and (c) which provides specific insights that managers can actually use to fine-tune performance.
We’ll be publishing a second article on the Leopard Index delving into how your firm might be able to use it as a management tool, in the near future.
For those of you interested in the details, here they are.