Archive: March, 2008

Why Law Departments Struggle to Improve Productivity

As mentioned in a previous post, the ACLA/CLANZ Legal Department Benchmarking Report 2008 found that Australian and New Zealand general counsel overwhelmingly view workload / time pressure as the most pressing issue they face.

However, relatively few law departments manage to improve their productivity and thereby reduce the workload of their lawyers. According to former CLANZ president Ron Pol (whose company conducted the survey for the benchmarking report):

“Many legal teams could implement systems to improve productivity and save money. The hold-up is not usually financial – there’s always budget to boost productivity – but more to do with attitudes. One general counsel recently told me that his legal department would rather just tell the chief executive that they’re doing a good job than take the risk that objective measures might indicate areas for improvement. For most of the participants in this research, however, ‘it works, so why change?’ is probably the wrong question. ‘It works, but can it work better?’ is the mark of a new breed of legal managers, constantly on the lookout for new ways to improve the effectiveness of legal service delivery. For some companies and government agencies, even a 10% improvement can mean millions of dollars in savings.”

Benchmarking Data for Australasian Law Departments

In the United States, legal industry consultants have been publishing law department benchmarking reports for years. (See, for example, the annual law department surveys produced by Hildebrandt and Altman Weil.) Such reports provide the proactive general counsel with lots of useful information for analyzing the current performance of his or her department against that of industry peers and taking corrective action where appropriate. Unfortunately, similar data is far less common for legal departments in other countries.

So, the release this month of the ACLA/CLANZ Legal Department Benchmarking Report 2008 was big news. Commissioned by the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA) and the Corporate Lawyers Association of New Zealand (CLANZ), the report delivers the results of a survey of more than 125 Australian and New Zealand companies and government agencies that together spend over a billion dollars on lawyers each year.