Most general counsel, when they think of benchmarks, have in mind only the typical ratios of numbers. Total legal spending as a percentage of revenue leads the parade (See my post of Dec. 19, 2007: within an industry.), followed by such stalwarts as lawyers per billion of revenue (See my post of Jan. 18, 2007: differences between industries in lawyers per billion.), and inside spending in proportion to outside spending (See my post of Dec. 5, 2007: 60/40 ratio of outside-to-inside spending.).
However, devotees of benchmarking urge it as a method better suited to learn about processes. A process, according to Edward Russell-Walling, 50 Management ideas your really need to know (Quercus) at 14, is a group of tasks while a group of processes is a system. In other words, don’t confuse process benchmarking with taking part in a survey that merely gathers numbers. In my experience, very few law departments formally benchmark key processes, such as how to manage large numbers of contracts. As one step in doing so, you need to choose the right benchmarking partner if you hope to obtain useful insights about a process.