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Data on average contract review times by legal departments, but hard to draw a conclusion from it

The data reported in Exari’s white paper, Corporate Counsel Contracts Survey Report, Dec. 2011 at 8, appears impressive but upon reflection offers little insight. The company’s recent survey of approximately 100 legal departments asked them to estimate the average time they spent reviewing each contract. A chart shows four choices and what percentage of the respondents selected each choice. Roughly speaking one quarter chose each of about one hour, four hours, eight hours, and more than eight hours.

The distribution of those responses is so wide, a range of more than 8-to-1, that the results tell us little. Perhaps the question should have posited a representative contract and asked about that because the data as given leaves you scratching your head. It just cannot be that some legal departments average an hour per contract they review while others require more than a day. Something else is going on that distorts these response.

Quite possible the kinds of contracts being thought of are not the same. For example it may be the review of a routine sublease takes hardly any time at all by an experienced lawyer and some law departments mostly have similar commodity contracts. On the other hand the review of an agreement to construct a nuclear power plant justifiably deserves days and days of careful thought.

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