If you work in a corporate law department, you have probably more than once heard a CEO, CFO, or other colleagues outside of your department declare, “Legal is a cost centre.” The prevalence of this view of law departments strongly suggests that lawyers haven’t exactly succeeded in making progress demonstrating that legal activities are business enablers that boost the bottom line.

For corporate law departments, this is no laughing matter. All components of a company need to drive value, and general counsel face pressure to measure and show the business value of their department. They have been stymied, in part, because the legal industry has yet to agree on metrics to measure how corporate law departments – and, by extension, their law firms – provide value and how much. The result: 

  • Risk management remains an “art,” not a science
  • Corporate executives lack a way to calculate the business return for law department spending accurately 
  • Benchmarking is impossible.

And so, a little bit more than a year ago, we joined with in-house legal operations experts and consultants from across the globe. Working with colleagues from NetApp, LegalOps.com, PWC NewLaw Australia, and IsInspired, we sought to advance the awareness, understanding, and use of metrics for in‑house legal teams to better manage their operations and drive value for their internal customers.

The result? The LegalOps.com Legal Metrics Portal – a newly launched, no-cost, online resource that provides in-house legal teams with resources, templates, and a metrics catalogue to help with program development, metrics selection, and data storytelling. The online portal also delivers the first platform for the legal community to collaborate, share, and advance the collective standards for legal business metrics.

The key components – all of them complimentary upon registration – of the Legal Metrics Portal are:

  • A self-guided five-step wizard that provides metrics recommendations based on what users seek to achieve, such as metrics that facilitate data-driven decisions or help tell the story of a law department’s contribution to driving business value 
  • A robust catalogue of more than 500 legal metrics with detailed descriptions, organised in categories that span legal operations and several legal practice areas
  • A library covering topics such as how to build and improve a legal metrics program
  • Sample dashboards that help tell data-driven stories on legal spend, diversity, contracting, and compliance.

Remember: this online portal and standard metrics catalogue is a starting point for solving a specific piece of the legal business continuum (as shown below in green). GCs must demonstrate value to the business, but law firms and law companies must also strive to demonstrate similar value to the law department in a correlated fashion. As law departments progress using metrics to demonstrate their activities drive business value, businesses can use those metrics in communicating with shareholders and other key stakeholders. Moreover, law firms and law companies will understand (and, presumably, adopt) the metrics for demonstrating their business value to law department clients. 

Other innovative legal industry organisations – including Legal Metrics (with an initial focus on diversity and inclusion metrics) and SALI (working to define a taxonomy of legal matters) – are helping to advance the use and usefulness of metrics. If we work together and collaborate across the spectrum, the industry will evolve to integrate standard metrics with ways to benchmark and calculate them. Other industries have gotten there, and there’s no reason why the legal sector cannot as well.

So join us on this journey, and let’s do this together. Let’s make our lives easier while speaking the language – the metrics – of the businesses we support.