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Does your legal department benchmark against other corporate in-house legal departments? If you're not familiar with benchmarking it's a process where you meet with other corporate in-house law departments and compare notes. It's a way to find out how others run their department, learn more about industry practices, and get ideas to improve and create efficiencies in your department.
You can set up benchmark meetings informally through existing relationships or spend some money and hire a benchmarking company that will have access to industry-wide surveys and networks. Here are five things you should consider when benchmarking against other in-house legal departments.
1. Keep Your Company's Size in Mind
When benchmarking, you want to compare your legal department to legal departments of companies of varying sizes. However, you must be cognizant that companies of different sizes have different issues. For example, if a company's revenue is much bigger or smaller than your company's, then the legal department will face different issues. Keep that in mind when meeting with others, and deciding what advice to follow.
2. Compare Apples to Apples
When you use general terms make sure that you are all on the same page. For example, when you talk about your "spend," make sure the same components that comprise your company's spend are the same components in the other company's spend.
3. It's a Two-Way Street
Realize that you're not the only one out to learn something new -- the members of the other company's team want something out of this as well. If you expect others to be open about processes and systems, be prepared to share as well.
4. Know Your Organization's Structure
To make the most of benchmarking, you need to be familiar with more than just your practice area, you need to know your entire legal department's structure, how they align with business, and how they work together. For example, if you're a transactional attorney, become familiar with how the IP, Litigation, M&A, Securities and Compliance teams work within the organization. Furthermore, if the person you're meeting with from the other company is only familiar with their practice area, you will be able to bridge some of the gap.
5. Ask About Technology
Don't just ask about structural and procedural aspects, also ask about the technology the company's legal department uses to get things done. Does the company use eBilling? Any particular document management programs? If the company uses different systems, what were the challenges of migrating to those systems? Did they think it was worth it?
If your law department does benchmark, then you're a step ahead. If your legal department doesn't benchmark, you should definitely ask your GC to consider it. Not only will it show that you are forward thinking, but you may also show that you're GC material yourself.