To increase the reliability of metrics – to reduce gaming — consider these five methods

If a metric is tracked and paid attention to, such as the number of cases closed during a quarter, you can be sure the litigation lawyers will figure out how to put themselves in the best light. Metrics are not Platonic essences, unchangeable, absolute, pristine. No, numbers are always spun or, worse, manipulated to the advantage of someone.

As a general counsel aware of number gaming, you might try these anti-gaming moves. Start with a clear definition of the thing to be counted: “a trademark clearance means X, Y and Z.”

Complementing definitions, request that the person who submits the number explain the methodology they used to arrive at them: “We looked at each bill of the XYZ firm paid during 2009 and added up the disbursements charged.”

Third, calculate some ratios that test the plausibility of the metric: “20 UDRP investigations per paralegal sounds about right.”

Having collected some numbers, study the trend of the data over time and check whether the latest submission appears reasonable.

Finally, every now and then have a knowledgeable and objective person look at the numbers metrics on a blind basis, without knowing who submitted them: “Paralegal training hours per region look about right.” For more about games people play with numbers, refer to my previous posts (See my post of March 11, 2009: gaming and manipulating with 12 references.).

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