Struggling through another benchmarking project that requires persuading general counsel to release a paltry few metrics, I turned empathic. Why is it so difficult for consultants to collect benchmark metrics from other law departments on behalf of a client (See my post of Oct. 17, 2005 that urges general counsel to take part in surveys.).? Here are the objections that I suspect would be voiced, in declining order of frequency.
1. General counsel believe that the people who would need to research the figures and complete the benchmark survey have better uses of their time.
2. General counsel do not want to disclose to anyone certain tightly-held confidential figures, such as on staffing and spending, because competitors in the industry will use them to their advantage (See my post of April 15, 2007: proprietary information of law departments.).
3. The companies in the survey “are apples to our oranges” so any findings are suspect.
4. Data that would be provided, mostly on spending, is anomalous for this year, “because of the spike in spending on the XYZ case.”
5. Senior lawyers mistrust statistics in management. “All that math stuff is hokum!”
6. Too many surveys flood in for the general counsel to want to pick and choose among them – “We don’t do any surveys” becomes the easier policy.
7. The general counsel worries that the figures will expose how poorly he or she manages the department.
8. General counsel don’t believe the figures other companies provide are honest.
9. The company as a whole has banned participation in surveys.
10. Once you acknowledge that metrics may have meaning, you demystify the exalted Oz-world of the legal department and it plummets into the bean-counting hell of Taylorism.