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Measuring Lawyer Performance: What's the New Normal?

If you scratch your head when you hear about the "new normal," I get you.

What happened to the "old normal"? Who said there is a "new normal"? And when it comes to law practice, is anything normal?

If only it were so simple. But with all the changes in the law business, there actually are new ways to measure lawyer performance. They made the new normal, and we just have to get used to it.

Old Is New Again

It used to be that clients gauged a lawyer's performance based on results. It might be measured by win percentage or dollar return -- like the way "Larry H. Parker got me, you know the story."

Results are still the key measuring stick, but computers and analytics have turned them into reports and charts. The new normal is really a reboot of how success has been measured all along.

A Net Promoter Score is a measure of client loyalty. By asking consumers if they would recommend your services to someone else, lawyers can discern through reports how they measure up.

Key Performance Indicators tell attorneys how they rate in terms of per-client revenue, satisfaction and referrals. Software tracks and charts the information to help attorneys see where to improve.

A Different Normal

While law firms can get analytics from traditional client feedback, it is a very different story inside legal departments. It is not about many clients; it is about one -- the company.

In this relationship, in-house counsel are not in the "normal" lawyer role. These attorneys wear two hats -- as lawyer and executive -- and they measure success differently. For example, they have to contribute to company revenues.

"How do lawyers contribute to revenues?" ask Paul Lippe and Gregory Richter in writing for Legal Rebels. "Act as a business enabler, help sales, increase the velocity of commerce, help create or acquire assets (like intellectual property) that lead to sales, and help eliminate obstacles that are an impediment to sales."

The authors say analytics still apply, providing in-house attorneys with insights to monitor the company's success, but general counsel are not the same as independent counsel. They are measured more like executives among corporate peers.

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