Key Metrics to Evaluate Outside Counsel Performance

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Even with the greatest level of talent on your in-house legal team, you will at some point, need the services of external counsel. When an organization rates its outside law firms, selecting just the right data might be a challenge. Business leaders may not be lawyers, so it maybe necessary to rely on the self-assessment of firms to determine the “health” of their programs.

But does it need to be that subjective? Hard data is an essential tool when it comes to performance evaluation. There are specific metrics organizations can use to evaluate law firm performance. While it may not be “all about the money,” these key metrics can provide insight into how your panel handles its work and the value of the results you receive.

Guideline Compliance and Categorization

One of the most important metrics is understanding the spend itself. First, your legal panel must function within your billing guidelines. Admittedly, your guidelines should provide enough room for your legal team to do its work. Proper communication between in-house law departments and outside counsel involves an in-depth understanding of what they should bill for, and why. This sounds straightforward. But business leaders sometimes struggle to fully see the ways in which legal work contributes to legal and risk management strategies.

Outside counsel billing guidelines should describe what legal work is expected and how it should be delivered. When they submit invoices, you should be able to read the line item details and understand immediately whether they are acceptable expenses.

To assist in determining the reasonableness and acceptability of certain expenses, Quovant’s proprietary, common language categorization elevates your invoices beyond the traditional – and, often misapplied – Uniform Task Based Management System (“UTBMS”) coding. Application of the common-language codes results in easy-to-understand and actionable billing data that tells a better story around your spend.


Once legal spend is better understood, allocations can be made to specific phases and activities. A seasoned law firm should be able to assess a claim and provide a budget estimate, as well as have the capacity to work within a budget. Quovant captures case budgets and provides notifications to team members when a certain amount of the budget is met, as well as reporting around the number of cases satisfactorily concluded within budget.


Knowing your current spend on outside resources supports modifications to your existing panel and plans for future use of new outside attorneys. Industry-wide information helps you to make better, data-driven decisions around your panel. You can identify potential relationships with new firms and renegotiate arrangements with existing partners. Armed with data, you’ll know whether the local market is competitive or sparse, bolstering your power to negotiate more advantageous rates.

Further, metrics gathered from law firm invoicing allow for a comparison of your firms’ performance to other similarly-positioned firms (e.g. in a specific state) and cases. Quovant offers access to external data so that you can benchmark your legal spend against others in a given industry.

Data Makes the Difference

By using these select key metrics, you will be better positioned to establish reasonable expectations and rate outside counsel efficiency and efficacy.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published to the Quovant site. After the 2022 Mitratech acquisition, the content was moved to the Mitratech site.