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Are benchmark surveys skewed toward larger law departments or smaller ones?

The law departments of large and acclaimed companies sit square in the targets of most benchmark surveys. Perhaps we should call them the Unfortunate 500, deluged as they are with requests for benchmark participation.

All survey sponsors want name brand respondents. Bigger is better; better known is better. Particularly when consultants sponsor the survey, such as the former Hildebrand Law Department Benchmark Survey, the consultants want to sell their services, and larger law departments are thought to be more likely purchasers of services or at least purchasers of more costly services. For these reasons, benchmark respondents may bulge at the large end.

Exacerbating that tilt, small departments may pass over benchmark surveys more than larger departments do because the one, two or three lawyer general counsel feel they have less maneuverability in response to benchmark metrics. On the other side, you can’t hide in a smallish company where cost and headcount pressures are front and center; there may be more urgency to find comparative metrics.

Ironically, beefy law departments complain that benchmark surveys and their results skew toward the small fry; the petite departments for their part don’t like feeling crushed by anomalous data of the big porkers. Neither size should worry if data is normalized and medians prevail.

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