Published on:

Thoughts on rankings by software of the complexity or value of matters handled by the law department

Matter management systems lack the capability to judge the importance of a matter. Fees alone don’t determine a matter’s strategic importance or legal depth. More specifically, the burn rate on a matter may indicate some measure of its legal intensity, but not enough (See my post of May 3, 2009: burn rates of outside counsel with 6 references.). Perhaps the number of partners billing to a matter, normalized for the length of a matter, could serve as a rough proxy of complexity, the assumption being that more partners bring more specialized perspectives.

The illustriousness of the firm handling the matter makes for a very ambiguous indicator of the matter’s importance. Type of matter is far too crude a categorization. Some antitrust advice has little strategic importance; one employee asserting a modest wage/hour claim may explode into millions of dollars of liability.

Yes, you can ask lawyers to rank their own matters on complexity and value, but it’s like 4H club members judging their own watermelons. Even if you give them a scale and do several other things to help assure some consistency and fairness, it is still subjective and self-serving. And, it is not the matter management system that is doing the evaluation.

Matter management systems and their own calculations from metrics just aren’t very good at assessing the substantive depth and significance of matters.

Posted in:
Published on:

One response to “Thoughts on rankings by software of the complexity or value of matters handled by the law department”

  1. Danish Mujahid says:

    I have been a keen student of decision support systems. Quatifying legal activities is always a challenge. Especially, as you mention, where you have a self interest.
    Although, I have yet to see a department where the complexity factor is implemented within a matter management system I have seen it being used to develop preferred provider programs and perform workload analysis. The difference is that the folks apply the methodology after the fact rather than proactively.
    This makes me think that with a little modification the approach you suggested can work. So, instead of each case requiring a difficulty classification the department operations can define a difficulty level to each “Case type” handled. E.g. a routine immigration matter will have lesser complexity than say an antitrust matter. This complexity/value number can be used in conjunction with numerous other “numbers” to provide a detailed analysis. For example, it can be used in conjunction with total hours, partner hours, duration, etc.