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Productivity, quality, and risk (PQR) – the three horsemen of every general counsel

What is the goal of management in a law department? To improve productivity, to increase the quality of legal advice, or to reduce legal risk?

Clearly, we need operational definitions of these slithery PQR terms and some way to measure progress toward achieving these objectives (See my post of Oct. 22, 2008: ACC Value Challenge; Nov. 21, 2008: definitions of Value Challenge; Jan. 2, 2009: how to measure productivity; and March 23, 2008: risk management with 18 references; and Oct. 19, 2005: the quality of decision-making.). Setting aside definitions, we have to acknowledge that general counsel want to accomplish all three.

It is not possible to rank the PQR objectives. They are incommensurables (See my post of July 27, 2007: trade-off between risk reduction and productivity increases.). Like constitutional principles they clash at their boundaries as in the old saw, “You can have it cheap, fast, or good, but only two of those three at any time.” My nagging worry is that general counsel can optimize only for one of these at any moment or decision.