Robert McNamara, a man criticized for worshipping numbers, spoke at a college commencement about the limits and powers of quantification. “To argue that some phenomena transcend precise measurement – which is true enough – is no excuse for neglecting the arduous task of carefully analyzing what can be measured.” The McNamara quote comes from the Harvard Bus. Rev., Dec. 2010 at 91.
Quality, risk avoided, judgment, alignment with client, and other foundational aspects of a good law department elude precise measurement, we all can agree. That agreed, some elements of law department operations do produce sufficiently solid and reasonably insightful metrics. General counsel know staff, spending, clients, technology, and structure numbers, to name a but a few. These countable inputs, outputs or activities tell us something useful about better or worse management. We “know” numbers about many phenomenon if by the term “know” we mean we can usefully count, compare, and analyze them over time or against other law departments’ equivalent numbers.