One out of three matters handled by a law department has outside counsel involved?

The law department administrator from The Williams Companies, speaking at Mitratech’s Interact 2011 Conference, mentioned that her department of about 70 lawyers averages 1,500 matters a year. That ratio grabbed my attention since I have not seen a metric such as 20-30 matters per lawyer per year. Of course, that metric depends how a law department defines matters (See my post March 26, 2008: definition of “matters.”). Still, assuming Williams only creates matters for reasonably significant activities – reminds me of named hurricanes – at least that is the basis for a comparative benchmark. Even internally it could be revealing.

She went further. Of those 1,500 matters, about 500 have outside counsel. The ratio of one-third of all matters having some fees billed by external counsel offers another metric that is uncommon – but potentially very useful.

At the least, law departments can pay attention to both metrics and give some thought to their own patterns over the years. At some point, and perhaps even now, a benchmark study will suggest what ratios are most common.

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