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Does the “predictive accuracy of outside counsel” constitute a meaningful metric?

Rob Thomas, Vice President, Strategic Development, Serengeti Law, offers his “Top 10 Methods To Manage Outside Counsel,” courtesy of ACC.

As part of a broader recommendation – to save money by means of post mortems – Thomas would have law departments assess the “predictive accuracy of outside counsel.” Does that mean to ask the law firm to forecast the ultimate settlement amount and when it will be achieved? Those outcomes are not in control of the law firm. Does it mean to ask outside counsel to predict when the deal will close? Likewise, outside their scope of control. And for all crystal-ball pronouncements, at what point in a matter is a prediction justifiable as a basis for later judging the firm’s predictive accuracy?

I do not think that this characteristic of a law firm is a meaningful component for evaluation of a firm’s performance or a way to save outside counsel fees.

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One response to “Does the “predictive accuracy of outside counsel” constitute a meaningful metric?”

  1. Rob Thomas says:

    You are correct that any prediction of fees, expenses, duration, or outcome involve factors outside of a law firm’s control. Nevertheless, predictions of cost, duration, and results are very important to corporate clients-to budget, set reserves, etc. Even though such predictions may be subject to uncontrollable factors, they are nevertheless often necessary.
    Matter management systems like Serengeti capture such predictions, and then automatically compare them later with the actual outcomes. This permits the client to determine whether certain outside counsel are better at making such predictions in certain types of projects–obviously the simpler, less lengthy projects are more likely to follow predictable courses.
    Assessment of predictive accuracy in turn helps in-house counsel set more accurate budgets, reserves, etc. in the future. It is then up to them whether to consider predictive accuracy when retaining such counsel again.