MEISTERLINE

The Science of Legal Expertise

Dr Peter Macmillan

Dr Peter Macmillan

Founder & CEO, Meisterline Analytics

MEISTERLINE

The Science of Legal Expertise

Dr Peter Macmillan

Founder & CEO, Meisterline Analytics

Dr Peter Macmillan

In December 2006, after having worked as a legal specialist for over 15 years, I resigned from my position as Head of Competition Law at an international law firm and took on a whole new challenge: To decode how legal experts think. I'd long been fascinated by the seemingly super-human abilities of the best lawyers with whom I'd worked, and having just turned 40 the opportunity to do my own cutting-edge research in this area was perfectly timed for a career change.

 

So began a 4-year journey of discovery spanning the training methods used by Medieval craft guilds in Europe, the Victorian-era debate over the inherited basis of human genius, the early promise of mid-20th Century machine-based problem solving, and the modern-day science behind the so-called "10,000-hour rule" of expertise development. All of which prepared me to undertake one of the largest ever empirical studies of how legal experts think (for which I received my PhD), followed by a book on how to measure a lawyer's level of specialist expertise using think-aloud verbal protocol analysis.


But this was just the start.

 

With a small team, we began applying new research methodologies to legal practitioners from over 100 of the world's leading law firms and specialist boutique practices. Working with coding engineers, we developed algorithms that could model the trajectory of a lawyer's cognitive development and pin-point their current skill level. By incorporating machine learning principles into the assessment process, we guaranteed that these measurements would become even more accurate as we tested more lawyers.

 

These were the beginnings of Meisterline Analytics, a research lab specialising in the analysis of legal expertise, and the Meisterline Index, a cognition-based lawyer rating service that at the time of writing is available to lawyers and clients in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, with more jurisdictions on the way.

In December 2006, after having worked as a legal specialist for over 15 years, I resigned from my position as Head of Competition Law at an international law firm and took on a whole new new challenge: To decode how legal experts think. I'd long been fascinated by the seemingly super-human abilities of the best lawyers with whom I'd worked, and having just turned 40 the opportunity to do my own cutting-edge research in this area was perfectly timed for a career change.

 

So began a 4-year journey of discovery spanning the training methods used by Medieval craft guilds in Europe, the Victorian-era debate over the inherited basis of human genius, the early promise of mid-20th Century machine-based problem solving, and the modern-day science behind the so-called "10,000-hour rule" of expertise development. All of which prepared me to undertake one of the largest ever empirical studies of how legal experts think (for which I received my PhD), followed by a book on how to measure a lawyer's level of specialist expertise using think-aloud verbal protocol analysis.


But this was just the start.

 

With a small team, we began applying new research methodologies to legal practitioners from over 100 of the world's leading law firms and specialist boutique practices. Working with coding engineers, we developed algorithms that could model the trajectory of a lawyer's cognitive development and pin-point their current skill level. By incorporating machine learning principles into the assessment process, we guaranteed that these measurements would become even more accurate as we tested more lawyers.

 

These were the beginnings of Meisterline Analytics, a research lab specialising in the analysis of legal expertise, and the Meisterline Index, a cognition-based lawyer rating service that at the time of writing is available to lawyers and clients in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, with more jurisdictions on the way.

ANSWERS

ANSWERS

As we began briefing law firms on our research findings, individual lawyers would ask if they could speak with me privately. They wanted to know how their own levels of expertise compared to their peers’ and whether or not their development as legal specialists was "on track." Today, Meisterline Index Self-Assessment and Development Reports provide meaningful answers to precisely these kinds of questions.

 

Law firm clients, on the other hand, face a big transparency problem when hiring legal experts - a problem I observed first-hand working as a BigLaw attorney. Like many experienced legal specialists, I encountered my fair share of opposing counsel whose skills in my area of law were grossly (even negligently) underdeveloped. I also worked with a few colleagues who tried to use me as an informal sounding-board in their attempts to present themselves to clients as experts in my area.

 

Because they can’t easily tell which lawyers are truly expert and which ones are only claiming to be, clients (as well as law firms) risk making a range of costly hiring mistakes, including: Choosing the wrong lawyers for the specialised tasks at hand; failing to identify more expert lawyers who could have done a much better job; paying a premium for lawyers with more expertise than necessary for a particular project; and overpaying for associates who are billed as legal specialists but have only a superficial understanding of the relevant area of law.

 

As a pre-qualifying tool, the Meisterline Index brings deeper level of clarity and objectivity to the market for legal expertise. 

As we began briefing law firms on our research findings, individual lawyers would ask if they could speak with me privately. They wanted to know how their own levels of expertise compared to their peers’ and whether or not their development as legal specialists was "on track." Today, Meisterline Index Self-Assessment and Development Reports provide meaningful answers to precisely these kinds of questions.

 

Law firm clients, on the other hand, face a big transparency problem when hiring legal experts - a problem I observed first-hand working as a BigLaw attorney. Like many experienced legal specialists, I encountered my fair share of opposing counsel whose skills in my area of law were grossly (even negligently) underdeveloped. I also worked with a few colleagues who tried to use me as an informal sounding-board in their attempts to present themselves to clients as experts in my area.

 

Because they can’t easily tell which lawyers are truly expert and which ones are only claiming to be, clients (as well as law firms) risk making a range of costly hiring mistakes, including: Choosing the wrong lawyers for the specialised tasks at hand; failing to identify more expert lawyers who could have done a much better job; paying a premium for lawyers with more expertise than necessary for a particular project; and overpaying for associates who are billed as legal specialists but have only a superficial understanding of the relevant area of law.

 

As a pre-qualifying tool, the Meisterline Index brings a deeper level of clarity and objectivity to the market for legal expertise. 

DIFFERENCES

DIFFERENCES

The critical differences between the Meisterline Index and other lawyer-rating services are that our assessments extend all the way from junior associates to senior partners (not just partners), they’re based on extensive research and empirically-derived cognitive modeling (not on self-prepared law firm submissions and peer recommendations), they generate objective (and repeatable) measurements of expertise, and they’re fundamentally quantitative (so they’re spreadsheet friendly). No other lawyer-rating service has all these features (and more besides), and most of them have none.

 

Instead of merely describing a legal specialist as "a good lawyer" or "a great lawyer," it’s now possible to measure their level of expertise with greater precision and objectivity using Meisterline Index expertise ratings. These ratings extend across 99 data points from 0.1 to 9.9. An attorney’s positioning within this numbered range provides a wealth of information about their specialist legal skills in absolute terms as well as relative to other lawyers.

 

Here's how we visualize the unique elements of the Meisterline Index.

The critical differences between the Meisterline Index and other lawyer-rating services are that our assessments extend all the way from junior associates to senior partners (not just partners), they’re based on extensive research and empirically-derived cognitive modeling (not on self-prepared law firm submissions and peer recommendations), they generate objective (and repeatable) measurements of expertise, and they’re fundamentally quantitative (so they’re spreadsheet friendly). No other lawyer-rating service has all these features (and more besides), and most of them have none.

 

Instead of merely describing a legal specialist as "a good lawyer" or "a great lawyer," it’s now possible to measure their level of expertise with greater precision and objectivity using Meisterline Index expertise ratings. These ratings extend across 99 data points from 0.1 to 9.9. An attorney’s positioning within this numbered range provides a wealth of information about their specialist legal skills in absolute terms as well as relative to other lawyers.

 

Here's how we visualize the unique elements of the Meisterline Index.

(Click to Enlarge)

POSSIBILITIES

POSSIBILITIES

With an increased focus on cost-control, the unbundling of legal services and new ways of combining in-house resources with outside lawyers and technology, the quantitative and qualitative data provided by the Meisterline Index are invaluable when assembling teams of legal experts. They also make the process of engaging outside counsel more accessible to procurement professionals and senior management.

 

Law firms, for instance, can use the Meisterline Index when showcasing their legal experts and responding to Requests For Proposals. Meisterline Index expertise ratings can help lead-partners and project managers explain objectively why their team’s services deserve a price-premium - and why adding extra lawyers is either critical or unnecessary. This can lead to deeper conversations about the value that each team member will bring to a given project.

 

Conversations like these are essential for law firms seeking to differentiate their legal talent in a crowded and competitive marketplace. Plus the fact that a law firm has obtained Meisterline Index expertise ratings for each of their lawyers communicates clearly their commitment to using metrics that clients can easily understand and measure.

With an increased focus on cost-control, the unbundling of legal services and new ways of combining in-house resources with outside lawyers and technology, the quantitative and qualitative data provided by the Meisterline Index are invaluable when assembling teams of legal experts. They also make the process of engaging outside counsel more accessible to procurement professionals and senior management.

 

Law firms, for instance, can use the Meisterline Index when showcasing their legal experts and responding to Requests For Proposals. Meisterline Index expertise ratings can help lead-partners and project managers explain objectively why their team’s services deserve a price-premium - and why adding extra lawyers is either critical or unnecessary. This can lead to deeper conversations about the value that each team member will bring to a given project.

 

Conversations like these are essential for law firms seeking to differentiate their legal talent in a crowded and competitive marketplace. Plus the fact that a law firm has obtained Meisterline Index expertise ratings for each of their lawyers communicates clearly their commitment to using metrics that clients can easily understand and measure.

PEOPLE

PEOPLE

As an organisation we’re keenly aware that the Meisterline Index has a very human dimension to it, which is why I still review every one of our Meisterline Index Development Reports and Rating Certificates. I also invite each lawyer who purchases one of these documents to contact me directly to discuss their results and what they mean. As a former lawyer and now as someone who leads a research lab dedicated to studying how legal experts think, these conversations are as important to me as I hope they are to the lawyers with whom I get the opportunity to speak.

 

If you'd like to learn more about the Meisterline Index and what we do at Meisterline Analytics, we've included a lot of information on this website, including a dedicated FAQs page. You can also contact us if you have any questions. And if you’re a lawyer in private practice, you're welcome to check if we currently cover your jurisdiction and areas of legal specialisation. To do that, Start Here.

As an organisation we’re keenly aware that the Meisterline Index has a very human dimension to it, which is why I still review every one of our Meisterline Index Development Reports and Rating Certificates. I also invite each lawyer who purchases one of these documents to contact me directly to discuss their results and what they mean. As a former lawyer and now as someone who leads a research lab dedicated to studying how legal experts think, these conversations are as important to me as I hope they are to the lawyers with whom I get the opportunity to speak.

 

If you'd like to learn more about the Meisterline Index and what we do at Meisterline Analytics, we've included a lot of information on this website, including a dedicated FAQs page. You can also contact us if you have any questions. And if you’re a lawyer in private practice, you're welcome to check if we currently cover your jurisdiction and areas of legal specialisation. To do that, Start Here.

Click Here to measure your expertise.

Click Here to measure your expertise.