If there were an accepted rate to convert the number of a law departments paralegals to lawyer equivalents, such as three paralegals will be deemed to equal one lawyer, and similarly to convert support staff to lawyer equivalents, what would that conversion tell us as a benchmark? First, though, although the math is easy, does the result make any sense? It may be useful to study law departments that have different mixes of lawyers, paralegals and support staff in a comparable, single expression.
I tried this on a group of 22 medical devices companies that have taken part this year in my General Counsel Metrics global benchmark survey. Three paralegals equal a lawyer, for the purposes of this exercise, and five support staff equal a lawyer. I based this rate loosely on compensation as well as contribution and mean no disrespect to non-lawyers, but if the idea of equivalency has legs, there needs to be some translation into a common denominator. I have bruited this idea before (See my post of July 31, 2006: secretaries counted in terms of lawyer-equivalents; June 28, 2006: a proposed standard; and Feb. 4, 2010: lawyer-equivalents.). Try as I might, I could not tease out any pattern or conclusion from the exercise. The various rankings and calculations I tested did not suggest a pattern.