When I was an in-house consultant for Merck’s law department, GE Medical Systems invited us to take part in a benchmarking exercise. What was unusual about the effort was that GE Medical sent four of its lawyers to spend a full day at Merck. During that day, their lawyers met with Merck counterparts in different practices and dug in, deeply, about how their practices operated. They learned about training, systems, technology, skill sets, use of outside counsel, and more. Both sides were able to learn abundantly.
If your law department cares about how to improve its procedures, not just about accumulating comparative metrics, visit law departments that have similar practices (See my post of May 14, 2005 about three ways to benchmark.). Often the qualitative sides of management are more useful than bushels of numbers.