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Unstated consequences or assumptions whenever we measure something in a law department

When we measure something, such as the time it takes to review advertising brochures, what takes place? As the author David Deutsch writes, “One can claim to have measured a quantity only when one has an explanatory theory of how and why the measurement procedure should reveal its value, and with what accuracy.” (at 317). This blog presents 10 ripples from a decision to count and track something.

We evidence authority, in that someone says, “do it” and others follow. Even if the same person who conceives the measurement does it herself, she shows authority over herself: self-discipline.

We introduce a time period for measurement, even if we don’t decide an end point explicitly at the start (“Let’s keep track until we see a pattern.”).

We assume one or more theories: we conjecture that the metrics will enable us to change something for the better, perhaps by criticism of what was believed before (See my post of Sept. 12, 2011: conjectures lead the way in all understanding.).

We presume we have sufficiently accurately defined both the event to be measured and the method of measurement (See my post of March 26, 2008: “matters” defined; Feb. 4, 2010: nuances of “lawyer”; March 2, 2010: the term “industry”; and July 31, 2009 #2: “revenue”.).

We communicate what we want done throughout, and ideally the reason for those actions (See my post of Sept. 19, 2011: pessimistic opinion of our ability to communicate clearly.).

We have less time to attend to something else, so there is an opportunity cost (See my post of April 12, 2006: opportunity costs with e-discovery and activity-based costing; Dec. 17, 2006: all practices have tradeoffs; Dec. 19, 2006: tradeoff between tight management and the quality of law firm advice; July 27, 2007: risk and productivity tradeoff; July 10, 2007: tradeoffs and unintended consequences; Aug. 29, 2008: opportunity cost of a lawyer conference; Sept. 9, 2008: “opportunity cost,” an economics concept for law departments; April 8, 2009: collaboration takes a toll; and Jan. 14, 2011: with more choices, higher cost.).

We privilege the process or thing being measured over others that are unmeasured, so we establish a priority (See my post of June 26, 2008: priorities with 6 references.).

We risk manipulation of the measurement, some form of deliberate alteration of the measurement to serve an unwanted end (See my post of Sept. 5, 2005: more settlements if outside counsel spend is under pressure.).

We set in motion at least an expectation of (1) analysis, (2) reporting, and (3) the probability of subsequent change (See my post of Sept. 12, 2010: if a request for data is in an RFP, firms expect you to use the answers.).

We have created expectations and therefore a basis for evaluation of someone’s performance (See my post of April 9, 2010: proposition that law departments are relying more on metrics to evaluate how law firms perform.).

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