Attributes inherent in the common use of the term “productivity”

One ubiquitous term in law department management circles is “productivity.” As typically used, “productivity” assumes that value results from the task. To sharpen 400 pencils in four hours may be high output level, but it is not “productive.” “Productivity” also assumes some level of commendable quality. A lawyer who proofs 400 pages in a day, but 50 typos and errors slip through, is not “productive.” The term also assumes that the productive person is using his or her abilities efficiently for their level. To address 400 envelopes in a day may be productive for a secretary, but not for a general counsel.

Fourth, a period of comparable time is assumed; to write three appellate briefs sounds impressive, but not if it takes eight months. Finally, implicit in the definition of “productivity” are metrics, some countable aspect.

Thus, for law department managers the immanent characteristics of “productivity” are a quantifiable amount of worthwhile services accomplished well by the right level in an appropriate period of time (See my posts on productivity of Dec. 3, 2005 on 30; May 7, 2006 on semantic network software; May 17, 2006 on technology; June 6, 2006 on Honeywell’s initiatives; and July 5, 2006 on the Horndal effect.) .

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