Were law departments and law firms to have a commonly accepted definition of a complex law suit (or transactional work, for that matter), it would be easier to develop different approaches to valuing the legal services, charging for them, setting incentives, assessing performance, staffing them, and investing in technology for them. The benefits of a quantitative standard are easy to describe; a framework for assessing the legal complexity of a particular is, however, gnarly.
In September 2006, the Empirical Legal Studies blog, hosted a discussion about how to measure case complexity. The scholars who weighed in acknowledged how difficult it is to devise parameters of complexity. They offered (1) the number of legal issues, (2) issues arising under certain notorious statutes, such as ERISA, the tax code, patent and railroad preemption, (3) intertwinement of multiple statutes and issues, (4) “labyrinthal factual situations,” and (5) the number of docket entries or pages of documents produced (See my posts of May 15, 2005 on complexity of legal services; June 28, 2005 on the topic generally; Aug. 27, 2005 on litigation complexity; and Feb. 16, 2006 on tax issue complexity.).
What’s needed is a broad-based coalition of firms and departments, something like the one that devised the Uniform Task Based Management System of codes, to wrestle with objective and subjective measures of legal complexity.