Most general counsel don’t know it, but the guy who’s killing them is Robert Metcalfe, the founder of 3Com. Metcalfe’s law about the value—and complexity—of networks is the amplifying force behind the GC’s increasingly impossible conflict between risk, cost and quality. And for those who understand its implications, it suggests some radical but achievable changes in law department management.
Today’s GC needs to control cost. We’re all aware of that. For most, more than half of the outside counsel budget is spent on litigation, two-thirds of which is consumed by discovery. No surprise there either—discovery is ground zero for the cost control crisis faced by law department managers.
As the magnitude of the discovery challenge has increased, instead of rethinking how the work gets done, we’ve simply replaced law firm associates with temp attorneys. The quality of discovery is suffering mightily as a result, but at least we're saving money, right? Unfortunately, the savings we think we’re getting through cheaper reviewers are largely fictitious. While $50/hour may feel gratifying, we’re failing to account for other more meaningful cost inputs.
Unfortunately, just about everyone has learned to say “process,” “Six-Sigma,” and “LEAN.” A genuine exercise to get underneath real process requires an investment of time on the part of the buyer.