Any time a law department distributes an analysis of data to executives it may get questions or interpretations that the department’s legal managers had not thought about. Likewise, when a managing partner of practice group head in a law firm circulates a data analysis, they should expect (indeed hope for) someone to ask about methodology or accuracy or the takeaways from the findings.
Not only is data transparency useful for marketing attorney effort and worth, it also stimulates thinking by the recipients – crowd-sourcing regarding legal management data. General counsel should shine light into the black box of outside counsel costs – expose the numbers, explain variability, explicate the methodology. Publish amounts spent by firm, by practice area, by business or staff unit – and where possible show trend data on all of them. Present blended billing rates for key firms, and show the discounts negotiated from standard rates. When executives understand more about costs they are probably less likely to carp; put negatively, ignorance coupled with suspicion breeds mistrust and criticism.
Or as Louis Brandeis memorably put it, “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” He might have added, “Candles promote thinking.”