Thoughts on rankings by software of the complexity or value of matters handled by the law department

Matter management systems lack the capability to judge the importance of a matter. Fees alone don’t determine a matter’s strategic importance or legal depth. More specifically, the burn rate on a matter may indicate some measure of its legal intensity, but not enough (See my post of May 3, 2009: burn rates of outside counsel with 6 references.). Perhaps the number of partners billing to a matter, normalized for the length of a matter, could serve as a rough proxy of complexity, the assumption being that more partners bring more specialized perspectives.

The illustriousness of the firm handling the matter makes for a very ambiguous indicator of the matter’s importance. Type of matter is far too crude a categorization. Some antitrust advice has little strategic importance; one employee asserting a modest wage/hour claim may explode into millions of dollars of liability.

Yes, you can ask lawyers to rank their own matters on complexity and value, but it’s like 4H club members judging their own watermelons. Even if you give them a scale and do several other things to help assure some consistency and fairness, it is still subjective and self-serving. And, it is not the matter management system that is doing the evaluation.

Matter management systems and their own calculations from metrics just aren’t very good at assessing the substantive depth and significance of matters.

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