Industry makes little difference to issues of management faced by law departments

When I meet with prospective consulting clients, the general counsel usually believes two things: the industry poses peculiar problems of management and his or her company presents unique management challenges. I nod at the beliefs but disagree with their accuracy.

Industries have different legal dynamics, such as being regulated or not, dealing with consumers or not, marked by intense foreign competition or not, awash in patents or not, but those business differentiators barely seep into law department management issues. Some industry differences appear in law department structure (global or not) and compensation but none at all in technology, outside counsel management, team development, and many other areas of managerial interest. The commonalities of how to lead in-house practices transcend structural differences between industries.

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