A fellow consultant claimed recently that a law department has the right to obtain from its law firms cost data on closed matters, even when those matters were other clients’. The data so gotten will help the law department establish typical costs incurred by types of matters.
A benefit to a law department does not justify a wrong to a firm. One wrong is that different clients invoke different strategies in litigation, so their costs vary for reason other than the effectiveness of the law firm. A second wrong is that the attorney-client privilege might cloak billing information. To learn enough about a set of matters to enable the data to make sense might breach the privilege. Third, there is no taxonomy that lets a firm decide whether a given lawsuit is similar enough to the archetype to include it in a data set. Finally, how would the requesting law department feel if its matter data were included in a database shipped to a competitor?