Data scientists in law departments may have time records to analyze, but it is questionable whether they should “take the time” (pun intended). The practice is riddled with methodological impurities as well as managerial challenges.
A fair number of larger law departments have their lawyers track time; some estimates place that number in the 20-30 percent range. Many of those departments, however, use the hours-worked information only for internal purposes such as to manage workloads, understand the kinds of matters they handle, and evaluate performance.
|Some departments that track internal lawyer time, however, charge time back to clients.. A chargeback system has drawbacks; it’s a hassle for the lawyers, it requires someone to handle the “billing,” it might dissuade a needy but impecunious client from getting legal advice, it’s just an intra-company transfer, and it might spawn inaccurate charges. Perversely, if you bill clients for internal lawyer time, you dissuade them sometimes from seeking legal counsel or you lure them into forum-shopping (taking work to a lawyer who under-records time). [We note that some utilities are required by state regulatory agencies to allocate their lawyers’ time between regulated and non-regulated activities so that the rate base is not skewed.]|
Defenders of charging time to clients have their arguments: it gives some market discipline to what otherwise is a free, and possibly abused, service (but only if clients can contest charges); it adds another overseer of lawyer productivity – the client charged; it allows a law department to negotiate levels of service (though hours worked is as pernicious as hourly billing by law firms); and it gives quantitative backup to a plea to hire more lawyers (although no confirmation is possible). Worse, some law departments require everyone to record eight hours a day, which makes a mockery of any claim that the data matches reality.