Garnering the data to compare a legal department’s efforts with others isn’t easy, but it’s becoming necessary.

It might not be the first thing people remember about the Great Recession, but the effects of the last big economic downturn changed the way companies view and measure their legal departments—probably, forever.

Gone are the days when an in-house counsel’s success (or failure) was measured simply by reducing legal spend year over year. Legal departments are no longer considered pure cost centers—with the C-suite now focused on metrics that demonstrate its legal department’s effectiveness in new ways, including an ever-increasing drive for data-driven intelligence and the ability to benchmark performance against the legal departments of other, similar, companies.

Garnering the data necessary to compare a legal department’s efforts with others isn’t easy, as most actionable information isn’t public. But finding ways to leverage that kind of data is becoming more important if in-house counsel want to provide new metrics to company leaders and strategically manage potentially damaging litigation—before and after it starts.

One way for in-house counsel to do this is to tap their outside law firms, who should have data from similar companies to draw comparisons, as well as technology to more effectively and efficiently manage litigation.

Using Data to Guide the Strategy for Individual Matters

When it comes to guidance on individual litigation matters, in-house attorneys previously had to rely largely on the historical knowledge of outside counsel to get the lay of the land. Was the opposing attorney any good? Was she eager (or overly eager) to settle? Was the judge assigned to the case prone to decide in certain ways on dispositive motions?

To be sure, assessments from seasoned litigators remain important—but they are subjective and may be incomplete. My law firm, Littler Mendelson, has long focused on using technology to gather the collective knowledge and insights of our more than 1,200 attorneys worldwide. We’ve found that the ideal approach is to create a litigation strategy that combines attorney intuition with objective insights gleaned from aggregated data.

Leveraging Aggregated Data to Minimize Risk

Improved access to data can also help legal departments look inward and make changes that avoid triggering expensive litigation in the first place. This is a key function of Littler CaseSmart, a technology platform my firm developed several years ago to manage administrative agency charges and employment litigation.

The platform captures data on legal matters in an interactive dashboard, which helps companies identify factors that are triggering litigation and proactively manage risk. As an example, the legal department for a large hospitality company reviewing aggregate data provided by its law firm may find that a certain employment policy is more often involved in lawsuits than others. Consequently, they may decide to alter the policy or provide more training to employees to rectify this issue.

Read the rest of the post at