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Importance of targets and metrics for legal teams

Posted 10/11/2014

One of my favourite topics in managing, leading and developing legal teams is target setting and metrics.

Setting targets for a company’s legal team is not simple, it might actually be extremely complex. However, measuring qualitative, quantitative and other results of lawyers is not impossible. You learn by doing. By taking the trouble of setting targets, following them up and improving them for the follow-up period you will gradually get better and better in selecting your targets and metrics, and your team’s performance will improve dramatically.

Before setting the targets your big picture needs to be clear so that your targets are aligned with your vision, mission, strategy or other high level targets.

It is important not to get overwhelmed by the difficulty or perceived impossibility of agreeing and setting the targets and metrics for legal services. Some lawyers and legal heads give it up or settle with the obvious metrics rather than invest time in really driving the team performance improvements through clear and challenging targets. Remember, that you tend to get what you measure. Setting wrong targets is harmful and can lead to unwanted performance and wrong prioritisation of matters and time.

One way to categorise the different metrics is to divide them to Financial, People, Customer, Partner, Process and Tools as well as to Quality related metrics. All these can and should be measured so that your targets are balanced and your team will develop in all necessary fronts. I give you some examples of metrics for different areas:

  • Customer and internal customer satisfaction.
  • Team satisfaction and other team member feedback (e.g. 360°–type measurements)
  • On financial side e.g. company revenue per lawyer, legal cost/company revenue, internal legal cost/external legal cost
  • Response time, time to conclude different contracts, quality of contracts (tracking certain clauses and deviations from standard approach etc.)
  • Activity based metrics; number of different types of contracts, number or size of lawsuits, consumer claims etc.
  • Law firm performance metrics
  • Usage of tools and processes, function’s own as well as e.g. visits to Intranet or similar service where information and tools are available to business people
  • Competence development metrics
  • Number and quality of sharing/contributions
  • Training sessions performed (or people trained)

Some of the information may not be available immediately and may require a bit of work but if the information is really critical for your team’s improvement you will certainly find a way to obtain the relevant data. RiverView Law is a good example of how data mining, metrics and reporting can help businesses and legal teams understand their risk level, define their service level and focus on issues that they deem relevant for the business. Information systems that are readily available and the reduced cost of modifying, developing and deploying them are enabling even smaller teams to get their own systems.

Remember that the questions you include in different surveys are critical. But in addition to what you ask also what you leave out is of importance. Remember to customise the surveys to really measure your progress against the set targets and priorities. Questions should be very concrete and understandable to the people answering the surveys. Consistency is good.  If you change the metrics too much, you will lose the trend data and comparison. Still, I would rather scarify that than have a measurement that does not correspond to your current priorities. Remember to include an open feedback opportunity.

Comparison with your competitors or other companies is really useful. Try to get information on results and metrics of comparative companies. Different industries required different amount and type of legal support. Business-to-business is different from consumer business and the number of countries that a given company operates has a big impact on complexity of legal support.  

Finally, average may not give you the correct result. You need to dig deeper than that. I just recently got a reminder of the danger of averages when I played a round of golf with a friend. I hit my drive pretty badly left and he hit the ball nearly as badly right of the fairway. Neither of us was happy with our shots. The average shot would have been pretty close to the middle of the fairway. Still, there was no ball there. - Jorma