Benchmark comparisons to defend, not to figure out what to change

Showing how your department matches like departments in lawyers or legal spending per billion dollars of revenue, or any of the other common benchmarks [sorry, I wrote a book about law department benchmarks and do two or three projects a year on benchmarking, so the subject stays near and dear to me] more frequently serves a defensive purpose than a change purpose.  Benchmark metrics can defend a department by showing that most others in the industry perform about the same; they can’t guide you to the changes you could make to excel.

Take an instance.  If you have more lawyers per paralegals than your comparables, you don’t know whether you should change that ratio, unless you look at other metrics and divine the consequences of changing paralegal ratios, and unless you look at other practices that would be altered too, such as office space costs for more paralegal cubicles, recruitment of paralegals, management of the larger number of paralegals, ability and willingness of your lawyers to delegate, your compensation scale, and so forth.

Keep critics at bay with benchmarks, but go beyond metrics if you want to change how you practice.

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