For general counsel who care about key metrics, two tools are essential: matter management software (MMS) and comparative benchmark data. The software provides current and usable data on outside counsel spending, for example, and can help a general counsel manage not only expenses, but also workload. The data obtained from benchmark studies enable a general counsel to spot opportunities to improve and to convey the value of the department to other executives using their lingua franca, numbers.
In this column, I speculate on the degree of overlap between MMS-using departments and benchmark participants. I start with estimates of the "user base" of both and close with some implications. I welcome clarifications and further information on this topic.
In the U.S., somewhere between 1,300 and 1,800 law departments have licensed or customized their own matter management system. Based on data from an excellent report by Hyperion Research, as well as my own consulting knowledge, it appears that the vendors of law-department matter management systems include something like 1,200 U.S. departments in their user bases. Add in customized solutions and users of vendors less well known, and I reached the broad estimate above.
As to the number of U.S. law departments that took part in a general benchmark survey during the last year or two, not a customized benchmark project, someone could trawl through the participant lists of the various offerings. If you include the 400 or so from the General Counsel Metrics survey, larger than the others combined, and go back two years, the number reaches 1,000 or so U.S. law departments.
The overlap of law departments between these two tools for managing metrics would be considerable, particularly on the larger end, because if you are a savvy general counsel, you will invest in both. Having said that, however, It would be a highly unusual solo general counsel who would license a matter management system. Yet single-lawyer departments often take part in benchmark surveys. For example, the General Counsel Metrics survey had 75 solo departments, as compared to 95 from the Fortune 500.
It appears that roughly half the Fortune 500 took part in a publicly available benchmark survey last year, despite many of them being unique in size and market clout. As to matter management systems, from conversations with those who know about the market, on the order of three-quarters of the Fortune 500 may have licensed a commercially available system.
What does the conjunction of these two market estimates suggest? Assuming 1,000-plus benchmarking departments in the U.S. along with twice as many MMS users, one implication is that the penetration of metrics-based management has lots of room to grow. Sometime in the foreseeable few years, too, the two sources of data will fruitfully merge. A third implication is that to include law departments based in such countries as Canada, Australia and the U.K. would increase the numbers by a quarter or perhaps much more. Finally, those general counsel wise enough to invest in both sources of data and to base decisions on their analysis deserve accolades as the cream of the metrics crop.