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The second-most-important benchmark number: the leverage ratio

An interview published this month of John Oviatt, chief legal officer of the Mayo Clinic, who oversees 35 lawyers and 45 other legal staff, covered his views of the importance of various benchmark numbers.

Oviatt’s view is that “the second most important of all metrics is the metric of leverage, the ratio of nonlawyers to lawyers, and particularly paralegals and contract managers.” He uses that benchmark “in demonstrating value to the C-suite that the legal department is focused on delegation of work to the least expensive competent level, and that implies increased utilization of paralegals and increased use of contract managers. We’ve actually decreased our total lawyer head count, but we’ve transferred some of those saved dollars into increased legal assistants and contract managers in our department.”

The GC Metrics benchmark survey found this year that for 303 North American law departments, the median ratio was slightly more than one lawyer for every non-lawyer (55% of total legal staff were lawyers) (See my post of Oct. 27, 2009: one-to-one ratio of lawyers to support staff with 9 references.).

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