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Here come the conglomerates, and there go the easy benchmark comparisons

One of the predictions in the Economist, the World in 2013 at 25, is that conglomerates will become more common.  As banks and venture capitalists become more risk averse, the article argues, companies will invest their own cash in a wider array of enterprises or endeavors. Another reason is that companies in emerging markets have sprawled into all kinds of activities and are now competing globally. Third, conglomerates will return to favor because consumers like integrated offerings from companies they recognize and trust.


If indeed significantly more companies consist of somewhat unrelated business activities (my rough definition of a corporate conglomerate), it makes it more difficult for their law departments to benchmark themselves.  There simply are not many General Electric’s and 3M’s around so that they can find similarly-structured, multi-line peers.


Consultants who advise law departments of conglomerates may have to combine findings from several industries and create a proxy benchmark or they may have to conduct what I call “sector” benchmark studies.  Sector benchmarking is harder to do because participants have to untangled costs and headcount shared by each sector and define their sectors somewhat comparably.


Take the GC Metrics 2013 benchmark survey, whether you are a conglomerate or not!  Here is the URL:  It’s free, quick, and you will get five Releases.  The survey asks for six of your 2012 figures: number of lawyers, paralegals, and other staff; inside and external legal spend; and revenue.  At this early point, about 65 companies have taken part.


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