An example of why industry benchmarks provide by far the most useful insights

To appreciate industry-level benchmarks, compare a few metrics for the law departments of Google and Anheuser-Busch InBev that appear in Practical Law’s February and March 2011 issues (both at page 80). For Kent Walker of Google, more than 230 lawyers support $23.7 billion in revenue plus about 22,000 employees, from 21 law-department locations. For Sabine Chalmers of Anheuser-Busch InBev, 150 lawyers enable $36.8 billion in revenue, support a whopping 116,000 employees, and work from more than 20 law-department locations.

Reflect on the wide disparity between these very different companies on three benchmarks. A legally intensive software company needs one lawyer for every hundred employees whereas the beer manufacturing and distribution company does quite well with one lawyer for every seven hundred employees. A seven-to-one difference!

The software company averages about 11 lawyers per location; the beer company averages a bit more than half as many. The difference may reflect the gap in legal complexity between the two companies.

Google’s lawyers enable about $100 million of revenue each whereas Anheuser-Busch InBev’s more than double that number. Scalability on beer beats all the initiatives Google pursues.

Who still says benchmarks don’t vary much by industry?

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