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Friday Share: Buying Legal, Metrics and Benchmarking

Buying Legal Metrics and Benchmarking
As an industry, whether inside or outside counsel, we don’t do a good job of figuring out what we want to measure in our organizations, but we still manage the business of law, according to Timothy B. Corcoran, principal of the Corcoran Consulting Group.

“Is anyone here willing to acknowledge, that because we don’t have great data, we’re not managing our business?” he asks in a YouTube video: CCG Buying Legal Chicago conference “Useful Metrics & Benchmarking.”  The video was published around the time he presented his ideas to the Chicago Buying Legal conference.

So how does the industry measure?  It may well be a combination of politics, irrelevant data and instinct, or gut feeling. Using a series of Dilbert cartoons and anecdotes, to illustrate his message:

1. Political decisions. As the old saying goes, no one gets fired for hiring a staple brand. Mr. Corcoran conveys an anecdote where legal procurement officer hires only from a list of top tier firms, but negotiates a 15% discount. When challenged to find the legal department additional savings the options seem fleeting.  “If the only contribution you’re making is hiring from a pre-defined list of law firms and extracting a formulaic discount, then we don’t need you,” says Mr. Corcoran in the video.

Also see this contributed post by Mr. Corcoran:
7 Creative Ideas to Kick Start Collaborative Legal Conversations

2. Overwhelming data. Data is only useful when we understand it and can use it to drive better decisions. For example, a large law firm where Mr. Corcoran once worked would pass out thick reports on the previous month’s activities. It was too much data to absorb and didn’t cause the firm to “managed differently.”

3. Gut feelings. Select the data that best supports our pre-conceived notions – sometimes unconsciously. He references the story of Moneyball to make a point.  An organization, in this case a baseball team, used the same information everyone else had, only differently:  to gain a competitive edge.

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The full presentation runs just 20 minutes, is embedded in the video nearby, and is this week’s Friday Share.

Separately it’s also worth pointing out that law librarian Greg Lambert, morphed Mr. Corcoran’s “legal department concepts for metrics and benchmarking onto the world of legal information professionals,” in a post for 3 Geeks and a Law Blog: What are the Useful Metrics & Benchmarks for Information Professionals?

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Legal Spend Trends:  Big Law Billing Rates Rising

Photo credit: Sonny Abesamis, Measure a thousand times, cut once (CC BY 2.0)

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About Frank Strong

Frank Strong
Frank Strong is the communications director for the LexisNexis software division located on NC State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh. In this capacity, he leads communications efforts in support of software products for law practice and law department management and also litigation tools – across large law, small law and corporate counsel segments. With more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector, Strong previously served as director of public relations for Vocus, which developed marketing, PR and media monitoring software. He has held multiple roles both in-house with corporations, ranging from startups to global organizations, and has also endured the rigors of billable hours, having completed gigs at PR firms including the top 10 global firm Hill & Knowlton. A veteran of two year-long deployments, Strong has concurrently served in uniform in reserve components of the military for more than 20 years, initially as an enlisted Marine and later as an infantry officer in the Army National Guard. Strong holds a BA in Film and TV production from Worcester State University, an M.A. in Public Communication from American University, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University. He is a PADI-certified Master Scuba Diver and holds a USPA "B" skydiving license.