A practice is a set of actions — a process (See my post of April 27, 2006 on legal department processes.) — that a law department carries out time after time. A concept is an understanding or a set of beliefs that animates a law department in its practices. Confusingly, practices and concepts sometimes overlap.
Some illustrations: A concept is to review the bills of outside counsel, which sounds like a practice, but there are finer practices such as having a paralegal check the math and the responsible lawyer decide about value. A concept is to compare your performance to that of your peers; associated practices are to buy a survey or collect data from a set of participants. A concept is to heighten competition among law firms that seek your business; practices that might translate that concept into action include competitive bidding and online auctions (See my post of Sept. 4, 2000 on electronic auctions.).
Hence, practices implement a concept, even though a concept that is not expressed as an action is hard to imagine. The law department practice that has no concept behind it is equally hard to conceive