Collect data only if you are going to study it and act on it

Law departments generate an infinite number of numbers. They could, to make the point, count how many minutes lawyers spend deleting e-mails from headquarters that a longer than 200 words. They could require law firms to notify the department of numbers of drafts of documents they prepared and the word count on status reports.

Silly, sure, but infinite doesn’t adequately describe the potential array of trackable numbers. Nor the time and effort that can be wasted on data that go nowhere.

The test for whether a piece of data justifies anyone’s time and effort to gather, check, present and pore over boils down to this: “How likely is it that we will change someone’s behavior because we have analyzed this data.” As Carol Petren, the head of litigation for MCI emphasizes, “it’s not enough to gather and collate data; it must be used to drive best practices.” (From Jan. 2005 materials of ACC, at 10, provided at a conference organized by the ABA Section of Business Law and ACC, Nov. 2005) (See my post of Dec. 14, 2005 on BellSouth’s metrics manual.)

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