Pushing law firms to provide useful performance data

An article on procurement departments teaming with law departments (27 Natl. L.J. May 9, 2005 at 11) mentioned Oracle’s law department. Its General Counsel wondered “whether it’s fair to ask a law firm to come up with the total number of hours they will work in the future.”

Why it isn’t not only fair, but a good idea to make this and other data requests that can help the requesting law department? Imagine asking your key firm were to compile and chart data showing each matter it handled in the past five years; the number of partner, associate and paralegal hours billed per matter; the total cost of the matter; the number of months from assignment to submission of the final bill; the practice area, amounts budgeted for the matters – all data that the law department might track, but which at least in part it probably hasn’t. And if it tracks it, it hasn’t depicted or analyzed it.

With such data in hand, a law firm can speak with some confidence to the likely amount and type of work that it will be asked to handle in the coming year or two. More important, the law department can dissect its own spending and management patterns, especially if it compares like data across several law firms.

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