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Simply to compare your department’s size to others doesn’t amount to a benchmark

A footnote in the 2010 Supplement to Robert Haig’s Successful Partnering Between Inside and Outside Counsel (West) in Chapter 17 at 17, refers to a listing of the 200 largest legal departments. That list, it says, “has provided general counsel with a unique benchmarking tool to measure their staffing levels against other companies within their industry.”

Not so. If all a general counsel did was say, “X Company has 65 lawyers, Y Company has 45, and I have 35,” that does not create a benchmark tool in the way I think of them even if they are all in the same industry. If, however, that same general counsel knows the revenue of all three companies and divides their lawyer numbers by the revenue expressed in billions, a benchmark starts to emerge. The data is normalized (See my post of Sept. 30, 2010: normalized figures with 14 references.). Even if normalized it is still hardly representative, and data from several more companies would need to be included for the results to offer much value.

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