When collected and analyzed, each metric can harm someone

When talking with a friend recently, it dawned on me that every time a general counsel gathers metrics and ponders what they mean, someone in the law department is at risk. Metrics are never neutral numbers, existing on their own independently of humans. Rather, all metrics speak to some absolute or relative performance of a person. If you assess workload metrics, for example, it is possible to conclude that one lawyer is more productive than another. The second lawyer to some extent is thereby harmed. If you look at outside counsel fees managed per responsible lawyer, someone will come out at the bottom of the list.

Even with department-wide metrics, as when a general counsel determines total legal spending as a percentage of revenue, there is a risk that someone will interpret the resulting figure as inadequate performance or hold a person responsible. Metrics have meaning, and where there is meaning, someone can draw a mean conclusion regarding effectiveness. Adverse conclusions can harm someone.

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