For law department managers, the levels of numbers they can make use of are countless. By that pun, I mean that we can aggregate or breakdown metrics as much as we have data, time and energy. Consider an illustration from a recent consulting project.
Our quarry was quasi-legal work, the kinds of tasks that lawyers can do but should not do (see my article in July 2005’s Legal Times on these leaches). We hunted for them with interviews and surveys.
An aggregate level would have been to report, “Lawyers in this department sometimes spend their time on quasi-legal tasks.” A more precise level: “On average, lawyers spend eight percent of their time – about three hours a week – on quasi-legal tasks.” With more investigation, we could find that “Ten percent of the lawyers spend less than one hour a week; 40 percent spend 1-3 hours a week; 30 percent spend 3-5 hours a week; and 20 percent spend more than 5 hours a week on quasi-legal work.” Sorting the data even more finely we could say, “The Counsel level lawyers averaged 7 hours a week; the Assistant Counsel level 5 hours, and the Associate Counsel 3.” Depending how granularly you collect your data, you can keep the Cuisinart of analysis going.
The best level of metrics to reach is the one that pinpoints where a problem resides and gives clues how to make improvements.