Morrison on Metrics: Do the Minions Know the Metrics?

To what extent do lawyers in legal departments know their department's benchmark metrics? I wondered about this because more than 60 percent of the participants in the General Counsel Metrics (GCM) global benchmarking survey are general counsel (and, by the way, has your department joined the 600 others? Click on the left icon). The most probable reason is that general counsel are more likely to get e-invitations. Moreover, they belong to various general counsel groups and learn about them that way. General counsel also have the authority to decide to submit proprietary corporate data. Finally, a general counsel, far more than any other lawyer, has a reason to obtain benchmark metrics too, whether try to fortify the budget, justify new hiring, amplify management insights or exemplify the law department's value to fellow executives.

All of that being true, it does not answer whether lawyers below the general counsel know such numbers as total staffing of the department or external spend on legal matters. To be sure, quite a few people other than general counsel have responded to the GCM benchmark survey, but some of them are presumably acting at the direction of the general counsel. For example about 10 percent are direct reports to the general counsel and about 10 percent are law department administrators.

I suspect that quite often people in the department do not understand the fundamental performance metrics of their department. They do not know how many law firms are retained; they do not know what proportion of their company's legal spending goes to which law firms, they haven't the foggiest notion of expenditures on service providers other than law firms; and on through the important metrics. The figures just don't make a difference to their day-to-day activities.

They may learn about metrics on a need-to-know basis. Direct reports hear about quarterly figures provide the Board and on other occasions they can glean some of the numbers. Administrators know them because they have to work up the numbers.

I doubt that a grand conspiracy tries to keep the minions in the dark on metrics. I think junior lawyers feel properly distant from department-wide numbers and reluctant to disclose proprietary information. They may not want to ask for permission to do so. After all, to obtain and understand numbers is to be able to criticize them. Perhaps some of the requests for anonymity I get result from people's reluctance to expose themselves. It also seems to me that procurement either does not want to know about legal spending or they can't obtain the relevant information to participate. Only a handful of procurement or sourcing professionals have submitted law department data.

In short, I favor internal transparency of information - the members of law department know people and pennies, so to speak - but they refrain from unilateral disclosure of such information on staffing and spending for good and valid reasons.

author image

Rees Morrison

Rees Morrison, Esq. is the founder of General Counsel Metrics, LLC. Based in Princeton, NJ, Rees has for the past 25 years consulted solely to...

Bio and more articles

Join the Conversation

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.