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A dubious comparative metric: ratio of partner time to associate time

An article on requests for proposal in the ACC Docket, June 2011 at 74, states that hourly rate arrangements are more and more giving way to metrics “to assess efficiency and effectiveness.” The metric proffered is “percentage of work handled by partners and associates, respectively.”

I am at a loss to understand this claimed metric. How could a law department say for similar kinds of matters handled by different law firms that, for example, 20 percent partner time and 75 percent associate time (the rest going to paralegals) outperforms 40 percent partner and 55 percent associate. The total number of hours billed makes a big difference as do hourly rates. If held constant, then, sure, one firm works more cost effectively than the other, but that also assumes comparable outcomes.

Delegation is no panacea; lots of associates milling and billing will improve the ratio but destroy the value (See my post of Feb. 4, 2007: the ratio of partner time to other timekeepers’ time.).

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One response to “A dubious comparative metric: ratio of partner time to associate time”

  1. Liz Harris says:

    As you rightly point out Rees, the number of hours will also impact “efficiency and effectiveness”, but “quality” is also a significant component rarely if ever defined and measured in an RFP – generally because people don’t believe it can be measured.
    The only benefit of a metric of time by level of fee earner is to gain an insight into how different firms handled similar matters, but unless you are also taking that “quality” measure into account, it means little.