Should benchmark studies segregate small law departments?

As particle physicists delve deeper into the atom, they find stranger and stranger properties at very small scales: anti-particles, quarks, uncertainty principles, strong and weak forces, flavors. Loosely analogously, as benchmarkers gather data from law departments of one or two lawyers, the standard metrics turn strange. Inside spend per lawyer swells because it is only the solo general counsel, for example. Lawyers per billion of revenue gyrates wildly since some lightweight companies include a lawyer employee. Outside counsel usage may soar in comparison to larger companies’ figures.

A counter-point is that most legal departments are small and like “Dartmouth is a small college but there are those who love it,” they too deserve the enlightenment of benchmark studies. To that point, in the benchmark survey by General Counsel Metrics, almost 30 percent of the 455 participants in the first report said they had three or fewer lawyers. Forty-seven had only a single lawyer.

The data from small departments may skew the overall benchmark figures, but they need to be included to give the full picture. A sophisticated analysis, however, segregates participants by number of lawyers.


If your department is small, you should still join scores of others by clicking here to complete the seven-minute, confidential online survey based on your four fundamental 2009 metrics.


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