Metrics normalized per lawyer may distort understanding and comparisons

One of the most common denominators in law department benchmarks is number of lawyers. Lawsuits divided by number of lawyers, patents divided by IP lawyers, paralegals per lawyer, and inside spend per lawyer are examples. That method of normalizing data across many law departments, unfortunately, disadvantages law departments on inside spend per lawyer if they have relatively more non-lawyer positions than other departments (See my post of May 14, 2006 on the deleterious effect on benchmarks of leverage.).

Fully-loaded cost per legal staff permits a more comprehensive view of a department’s performance. Just as total legal spending per billion of revenue precludes gaming the statistic by loading spending inside or outside, a full legal staff view – with lawyers, paralegals, secretaries, and all others included – precludes departments with an imbalance of lawyers from looking much better or worse.

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