Three comments on survey data about “metrics favored by managers”

Almost 200 senior in-house lawyers responded to a survey question that asked them to identify which “tracking metrics” they currently use. The survey data is courtesy of LexisNexis CounselLink study, entitled “Effects of the Current Economic Downturn on U.S. Law Departments” 2009 at 14.

The eighth most frequently tracked metric (16.8% use it) is “documents/transactions completed.” This metric jumped out at me because departments have to have at least a rudimentary matter tracking system to be able to count documents/transactions completed. Further, I suspect that it really means “matters” completed, where a “transaction” equals a “matter.” To count contracts completed would be highly unusual, let alone the broader range of “documents” such as correspondence and memos.

Also deserving of comment are the two data analytics of “cost vs. average for similar matters” and “time spent vs. average for similar matters.” Each metric being used according to about 13 percent of the survey respondents, it means those legal departments have calculated averages for amounts spent and hours by outside counsel. If that is true and representative, fixed fees should be much more accepted since the departments would know approximately what a matter should cost and the distribution of cost outcomes. I doubt this.

The third metric of note is “measures of risk,” which 16.8 percent selected. This data set mystifies me, since risk is so hard to quantify (See my post of March 23, 2008: risk management with 18 references.).

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