The European Lawyer, Issue 91, Nov./Dec. 2009 at 21, reports on a survey of the information technology (IT) departments of the top 250 UK law firms. “The overall average spend was 4.3% of their revenue expended on IT.” For legal departments, corresponding data is spotty (See my post of Aug. 14, 2005: spending of $4,000 per lawyer.). If that figure in the United States of five years ago compares to about $1,000,000 per lawyer in total legal spending – a number that corresponds to law firm revenue, that would have been four percent (4%). The match today in the UK could well be quite similar.
The survey also found that the UK firms overall employ one person in the IT department for every 30 users. About a third of those support staff are devoted to help desk activities of user support. On the legal department side, some benchmark data exists regarding IT support levels (See my post of Aug. 27, 2005: one IT support person for every 24 people in the legal department; and Dec. 23, 2005: less than one for every 35 people.). Again, a fairly close match.
I would hardly say that the book is closed on this comparison between in-house and out-house IT funding and staffing, but these fragments suggest less of a gap than I would have thought. We must, however, bear in mind that the company provides much of the infrastructure for its legal department and quite surely not all corporate IT costs or personnel needs seep into the legal budget and headcount.