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Easy or hard to show the department’s contribution in dollars? Hard

Nat Slavin, Corporate Legal Times’ Publisher wrote this month (pg. 6) as if it were mind-numbingly simple for a legal department to show streams of money it made or save for its client. From a marketing standpoint, Slavin maintains that the challenge is for the GC to tell the stories.

“Most departments have tons of specific examples of how their involvement in a matter or project either saved the company millions of dollars or helped bring in millions in revenue.”

Would that it were so, Nat! If a company closes a contract to sell $50 million of its goods, the lawyer who drafted and negotiated the contract can claim she “helped bring in millions,” but that line proves too much: every penny of the company’s revenue has, at one time to a slight and derivative degree or today, directly and comprehensively, some legal involvement. Or the lawyer points out that her clever limitation of the indemnification clause “saved the company millions” in future liabilities avoided, but that line proves too little: rarely can a lawyer conclusively prove the amount of a loss avoided. (If an adverse judgment is reversed, OK.)

Proof of the value of a law department eludes everyone, and to assert that law departments need only reel in a few hefty value fish out of the stream of activities, and concentrate mostly on mounting the trophies is a fisherman’s tale.