Findings from the 10th anniversary report of the Law Department Operations Survey highlight key differences in the top key performance indicators today versus 10 years ago.
A big difference through the years, the survey noted, has been legal departments’ emerging comfort and use of alternative legal service providers, as evidenced by the halving of “total outside counsel spend” and the tripling of “total outside counsel and service-provider spend” as a KPI.
“This illustrates that LDO [law department operations] professionals are decreasingly concerned with who is doing the work as much as the overall efficiency, predictability and cost of getting it done”.
In 2008, the top five KPIs reported were: actual expense versus plan (69 per cent), law department’s total budget (65 per cent), total outside counsel spend (65 per cent), total outside spend as a percentage of revenue (19 per cent), and in fifth spot, law-related expense as a percentage of total revenue and number of litigation matters were tied at 15 per cent.
The top five KPIs in 2017, however, looked different: actual expense versus plan remained in top spot but ta 58 per cent, followed by total outside counsel and service-provider spend (43 per cent), total outside counsel spend (36 per cent), outside counsel savings (27 per cent) and total outside spend as a percentage of revenue (22 per cent).
These evolving priorities with KPIs may be down to differences in distinct budgets for operations: those departments who have a distinct budget have fallen from 59 per cent in 2008 to 31 per cent in 2016 to just 20 per cent last year.
“The rapidly disappearing distinct budget for operations has us wondering if many general counsel are signing onto the idea of legal ops but without providing a real mandate,” the survey reflected.
“We also see this in the lack of additional influence and headcount in more mature departments. At the same time, LDO professionals are more involved in corporate-wide initiatives as the law department is increasingly in alignment with the rest of the business, with the LDO professional frequently the nexus.”
“In many law departments, the LDO professional is left ‘pushing on a piece of string’.”