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Made to measure in house

Made to measure in house

In these uncertain times, in-house's ability to measure success, failure and challenge is paramount, writes Peter Turner, chief executive officer of the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association.

In these uncertain times, in-house’s ability to measure success, failure and challenge is paramount, writes Peter Turner, chief executive officer of the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association.

JUST as I was starting to write this month’s column for The New Lawyer, I received the latest edition of ACC Docket, the journal of ACLA’s “big sister” organisation, The Association of Corporate Counsel, based in Washington, USA.

In the president’s Message, Fred Krebs, the ACC President, recaps a CLO Roundtable discussion, which took place at the ACC’s Annual Meeting in Boston last October. The essence of the discussion, attended by some of the world’s leading GCs, was that the quantifiable measurement of success, of challenge and even of failure, is an absolutely essential management tool for in-house legal departments.

Richard Stock of Catalyst Consulting pointed out something similar in the Foreword to the 2008 ACLA/CLANZ Legal Department Benchmarking Report. 

He said: “There are no best practices in management – every organisation has different priorities and different resources to call upon [but] still, we can learn from the choices made and the standards maintained by .. highly respected organisations.” 

In these tough times of turmoil and change, there seem to be very few certainties. The traditional business models of both law firms and legal departments are increasingly under pressure as corporate clients and government departments/agencies push harder to control and reduce their legal costs. 

As a result, the focus of the “make or buy” decision for most organisations as moved decisively to a discussion about “value” and what it means to the client. At the centre of this discussion are law firm billing practices, the sustainability of the billable hour and the issue of “who does what where?” These are difficult matters for all parties involved and outcomes vary case by case. 

During February, ACLA will issue its 2010 benchmarking survey with a detailed report due for release in June. The new report will contain a vast array of reliable benchmarks on legal spend, legal department management and the use of external legal service providers as well as comparisons to the 2008 figures. 

As the old adage says: “If it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed”.  In today’s environment, no legal department can afford be without measurements.

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