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Four nuances of attributes of “lawyer,” such as in lawyers per billion of revenue

The position “lawyer,” as in the key benchmark of lawyers per billion of revenue, treats each lawyer as an undifferentiated atomistic unit, but in fact individual lawyers consist of sub-atomic particles galore, so to speak. If we knew more precisely attributes of the constitutive lawyers in legal departments, we would move closer to understanding how those lawyers influence productivity and quality. Four such characteristics should clarify my point.

  1. Tenure with department – generally, the longer a lawyer has belonged to a company’s legal department, the more effectively that lawyer will get work done and make decisions. Familiarity breeds contempt for time wasted and ignorance of how the company takes risks and makes money. Newcomers can’t quickly acquire that knowledge.

  2. Total years in law practice – generally speaking, lawyers who have been longer in the saddle ride with better experience and judgment. They have seen the problem or something like it, can cut to the salient legal issue, and propose pragmatic solutions. More recently graduated lawyers lack that grizzled discernment.

  3. Years of legal education and other graduate degrees – in the United States, to practice as a lawyer means you graduated three years of law school and passed a state bar exam. In other countries, an undergraduate legal major serves. Some lawyers obtain LLMs or earn MBAs or have become CPAs. As a rough approximation, the more formal education an in-house counsel has obtained, the broader their perspective and knowledge.

  4. Language spoken – to some degree, a lawyer fluent in the mainland language of his or her client will contribute more than one on a linguistic island.

If we data on legal spend as a percentage of revenue and data about all the lawyers in the departments that corresponds to these attributes, not to mention others that could apply, we would understand better how the makeup of a legal team influences total legal costs.

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