Metrics: Beyond the Billable Hour


Law firms love measuring the billable hour. The current yardstick for worth. But by focusing only on the billable hour, law firms lose. They lose valuable data.

Think about how much data runs through a law firm:

  1. What do clients request?
  2. When do clients request it?
  3. Why are clients asking for that work? When do they need it done? What motivates the request? Is it tied to a specific time of year?
  4. How satisfied was the client? What feedback did the client provide?
  5. When do clients ask to reduce the bill and by how much?
  6. What type of work was done for each client?
  7. How long does it take to complete task “X” on average?
  8. How often was task “X” completed?
  9. What is the likelihood of success on task “X”? Was the success tied to a particular lawyer?
  10. Who generally works on task “X”? And so on.

Yet, most law firms fail to measure these basic questions. With the emergence of Big Data, there is no excuse. Big Data is the analysis of large sets of data to reveal patterns.

Law firms can then use the patterns arising from Big Data to make policies based on measurable data rather than anecdotal evidence. Thereby giving firms a competitive advantage in finding ways to reduce costs and risks for their clients.


  1. The scale to support big data tools doesn’t exist in most law firms. Aggregate data across many firms could solve this problem but it is probably not collectable due to confidentiality.

  2. Yes, but not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that can be measured matters! Billing by time although easy is usually inapprpriate in many legal situations.