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Should you track the point where your law department is brought in on a matter? No

I lately read an intriguing idea: report the stage at which the law department is first involved in important matters. It would be easy enough for the responsible lawyer, when setting up a new matter in a management system, to categorize the point when she first plunged into a project as early, intermediate, or late – a subjective measure (See my post of March 26, 2008: how to define “matter.”).

No objective standards exist, at this time, for such labels, and lawyers might bend toward noting “early” so that they look better. After all, smart clients want to bring in a good lawyer early on. But what do you do if your are brought in prematurely, before clients kill a bad idea for business reasons? On the other hand, a lawyer might categorize the point of first involvement as late to create an excuse for something.

For data to be reliable, lawyers would have to consistently and objectively categorize their time of first involvement – yet, how do you define the quanta of involvement needed – and do so over many months. Would clients’ ratings match?

Given how hard it is to define a matter, it is harder still to define when one starts. Even if you had a start date, nothing may happen of significance for a period of time and reports would have to account for that. In short, the metric sounds tidy, but the reliable and useful collection of data would be too messy.

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