In response to my recent blog post asking Is BigLaw Still the Inhouse Counsel Parachute?, which discusses why inhouse lawyers have not done more to evaluate outside counsel, Jeffrey Carr, General Counsel of FMC Technologies, Inc., wrote a very interesting comment. 

I have blogged about lawyer ratings from time to time, arguing that they are key to a more efficient legal market. So I read Carr’s comments with great interest. He posted his comments at the Legal OnRamp, the leading collaboration and social media site for legal professionals. With his permission, I reproduce his comments here:

“Your points about the usefulness of objective ratings are spot on. Lawyers worth their salt — whether in house or in firm — should readily accept and embrace the concept of providing and receiving meaningful feedback, evaluations, and continuous improvement. Those that fail to do so based on concerns of having a safe haven landing zone [meaning, landing a BigLaw partnership], are at best misguided, probably fundamentally wrong, and do lawyers in general a grave injustice.

In a world where surveys show the vast majority of outside counsel think they do a great job for their clients, but the vast majority of in-house don’t share that view, there’s a cognitive disconnect that must be addressed. To do so requires open and meaningful bilateral communication on what is expected, whether those expectations were met, and what to do in the future to improve. Our community desperately needs an easy to use, meaningful, and standardized set of evaluation criteria and metrics for this purpose. Serengeti Tracker has an exceptionally good one in it’s matter mangement system that also benefits from making evaluations part of the normal workflow process. This is great for an in-house team with it’s own stable of matters and firms, but it does not facilitate the sharing of information across companies and firms. To address that challenge, LOR [Legal OnRamp], the ACC, Martindale Hubbell and others are looking at data and metric aggregation platforms to facilitate the creation of such a facility.

While I applaud those efforts, I implore their backers to look to standardize and accept data from existing sources. As an in-house counsel, my most precious commodity is time, not money. Don’t ask me to devote bandwidth to multiple sites or facilities with conflicting and inconsistent standards, questions and measurement scales. I for one, simply won’t do it — and neither will the team that works for me. I will, however, gladly share my data with others in the hope that an aggregated database provides meaningful and truly useful feedback on firms and individual lawyers.

We have over 1100 evaluations in our own database today — and we add to it everyday because we believe that this tool is one of the most important to drive performance which translates directly to value. And by the way, we use exactly the same evaluation criteria to assess the performance of our in house team and we seek input from our alliance counsel as well as or corporate customers.”

In recent posts, I suggested that BigLaw pyramids may need to become cylinders. Effective lawyer ratings would be one of the vises that help squeeze BigLaw into better shape. [While BigLaw partners might view ratings as a vice, I do mean vise.]