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Trading cycle-time reduction against leaving cases dormant

Many law departments have touted shortening the time cases last as a good aid to budget discipline (See my posts of Sept. 28, 2007: cost-control technique; May 16, 2006: FMC Technologies’ reductions; and May 23, 2007 GE on reduction of cycle time.). The shorter the duration, the lower the cost, they argue. At the least, a general counsel can measure the elapsed time of cases and base some decisions on that information (See my posts of April 2, 2005: panel presentation; May 28, 2005: cycle time in federal civil court cases; Dec. 10, 2005: speed time to resolution; Oct. 27, 2005: time-to-resolution; Feb. 20, 2006: some analytic metrics; and Feb. 23, 2008: eLawForum data on cycle time and early case assessment, with references cited.).

What butts heads with cycle-time reduction is the obvious fact that sometimes cases lie fallow for long periods of time (See my posts of Feb. 27, 2008: Ford Motor and inactive asbestos cases; Oct. 25, 2007: the percentage of dormant cases; April 17, 2007: percentage of dormancy months; and Aug. 22, 2006: a metric of law firm performance.). Sometimes courts creep like glaciers, sometimes the other side loses enthusiasm, sometimes nothing significant happens for months at a time.

It may be fiscally prudent and legally sound to let some cases snooze on and on. Rather than wake up the other side so that you can lower your average turnover period, just tiptoe silently away.