The impact of the novel coronavirus cannot be overstated. There’s been tremendous discussion about the myriad ways COVID-19 is changing the world and economy, and I suspect that impact will extend to the legal industry in a long-standing way. To be fair, COVID-19 accelerated some trends we were already seeing, but this increased speed could cause several fundamental changes in the way law is practiced.

One of the largest impacts will be increased interest in benchmarking. I’ve been beating this drum for a while now, writing about the benefits of benchmarking and the importance of standardizing legal data to improve the quality of that benchmarking. But with an economy in recession, corporate legal departments (CLDs) must get more sophisticated with regard to how they manage rates, AFAs, and selection of outside counsel. Even though CLD decisions along these lines are rarely second-guessed, CLDs should shoot to be able to produce the kind of objective, statistical data, including benchmarking data, that would assure a skeptical third-party auditor that the department was run like a business. That is the best way for CLDs to demonstrate they are achieving what internal business clients are asking for, which is not only legal expertise, but excellence in the business aspect of what they do.

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