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The burden and benefit of status reports

In many large law departments, lawyers write a summary each month of the progress of major matters for which they are responsible. The level above those lawyers distills the status summaries into a status report, as it is often called, which is duly delivered to the general counsel.

In turn, the general counsel may extract some key information from the status report and provide that essential update to the CEO, Board or peer executives.

A low-level debate surrounds this status-report practice, at least in terms of the preparation of the reports. Sometimes, it is felt, the responsible lawyers spend too much time describing what they have done and promoting themselves. Sometimes the intervening lawyers who review that material and add their own massage the material to further their own goals. No matter what, the exercise takes time — time that might be better spent on the provision of legal services.