Can you measure the value of legal services?

February 16th, 2012

Paul LIppe at Legal Rebels says you can:

Let’s begin by stipulating that within the mix of legal services, some are harder to measure than others. But even so, most legal services are far more measurable than most practitioners would recognize, and most attempts to measure quality, even if imperfect, will improve performance. The assertion that you can never reduce costs without hurting quality is clearly false, and undermines the credibility of the profession. Most of the sensible things that we can do to reduce costs will improve quality as well. . . .

In all fields, the conversation tends to start with a focus on costs, which leads to the rejoinder that if you question costs, you put quality at risk, which, after a few twists and turns, will hopefully lead to a serious discussion of what quality actually is. . . .

But what we can do is compare any legal matter to a similar matter for the same client, which could be either:

• Many like matters (e.g., sales contracts) for the same client.
• Matters delivered over time by different firms for the same client.
• Matters delivered by firms versus matters delivered by alternative service providers like legal process outsourcers.
• Matters delivered by the legal department with little or no firm involvement.

Once you acknowledge there can be some basis for comparison, you then want to think about what criteria you would like to assess, even as we recognize that data collection in law will be imperfect. Using the sales contracting example, the criteria might be:

• How quickly did the contract get done?
• How favorable are the terms to the company (opportunity gained and risk avoided)?
• How easy are the terms for other parts of the company (finance, manufacturing, sales, etc.) to understand and perform?
• How satisfied were the true business clients?
• How satisfied was the counterparty?
• How much did the contract cost?
• Did the contracting process improve?

This seems really vague and nebulous.

Patrick Lamb at the same blog offers these 10 tips:

1) The percent of times a lawyer timely prepares the required early case assessment.
2) The percent of times a project plan for a case is timely prepared. And updated.
3) The percent of times a lawyer/team meets budget, for both segments of cases and the entire case.
4) The percent of times work product is timely submitted for review (i.e., client to have one week to review before filing).
5) Grades on depositions/divided by quality needed (example: an expert on a critical case needs “A” work, but the quality was only “B”. That yields a B/A, compared to a terrific deposition of a less-important witness which might yield an “A/C” grade. By attaching numbers to both numerators and denominators, a statistic can be created.)
6) Grades on briefs (same concept).
7) The percent of times the firm receives its holdback on the attorney’s matters.
8) The percent of times the firm receives a bonus on the attorney’s matters.
9) The percent of times a client with repeat business hires us for additional matters.
10) The number of times the attorney presents his or her issues in collaboration sessions.