All processes can produce data (See my posts of April 27, May 1, and Oct. 16, 2006 generally on law department processes.). Since processes happens repeatedly, someone can count input, elapsed time, participants, output or all of these. The contract review process comes to mind as an example. Any law department can quantify the number of contracts it handles, turnaround times, sources and kinds of contracts, time spent by lawyers and paralegals on the contracts and the varieties of work done on them, the dollar volume covered, number executed, issues arising, and many other quantifiable aspects. In fact, any process spawns an infinite amount of data.
Data, however, does not fully represent what happens during the process, because inherent in processes are many instances of lawyers drawing on tacit knowledge or experiential judgment. To stay with the contract review, it may be that the in-house lawyer has dealt with the other party before, or the combination of representations made in the agreement bodes ill. Data can’t do justice to the complexity of a legal process, but the data is always there. Where there’s the smoke of numbers there’s a smoldering process.