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All numbers used by managers of in-house counsel are inexact

Previous posts have mentioned some of the reasons “number of lawyers in a legal department” is inexact. “Number of lawyers” in the colloquial sense will do for many purposes, such as headcount and planning how many attendees at a retreat, even though more precise or different metrics could add insights. “Lawyer-years” could be for each lawyer in a department how many years it has been since they passed the bar. Or adjust the number of lawyers by full-time equivalent or by chargeable hours or by years with the law department. You could correct for years in the position as another indicator of effectiveness. Perhaps another measure would disaggregate lawyers by time they devote to different practice areas. A half-time litigator is not as effective as a full-timer.

Surely, all that said about the imprecision of “lawyers,” we can depend four-square on the annual internal budget? Even there, uncertainty or lack of precision rears up. Were all internal charges correct? Were cutoffs logical and enforced? Did some expenses leak elsewhere? What about capitalized costs? Regarding expenditures on outside counsel, what about discounts, accruals, present value, currencies?

My point is that all numbers, even those we treat as if they are engraved in stone, ought to have some gauge of uncertainty associated with them. John Brockman, Ed., This Will Make You Smarter (Harper Collins 2012) at 53, inspired this comment.

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