Memes and memetics: an information framework for managers of law departments

A “meme” has been defined as “an information pattern, held in an individual’s memory or in an outside artifact (e.g., book, record or tool), which is likely to be communicated or copied to another individual’s memory.”

Examples of memes that pertain to law departments are ideas (partnering), technologies (docketing software), theories (handle commodity work inside, specialist work outside), practices (charging back outside counsel fees to business units), fashions (third-party bill auditors), techniques (RFIs), and traditions (hire only experienced associates or partners). Memes cover all forms of knowledge, beliefs, values and behaviors that are normally learned from others rather than discovered independently (See my post of Sept. 10, 2005 about sources of innovations (memes) in law departments.).

Memetics, the science of memes, studies the replication, spread and evolution of memes. For readers of this blog, the core idea of memetics is that memes differ in their degree of “fitness”, i.e., adaptation to the law department in which they propagate (See my posts of July 14, 2005 and Sept. 13, 2005 on best practices.). Because of natural selection, fitter memes will be more successful in being communicated, spreading to a larger number of law departments and surviving for a longer time. Memetics tries to understand what characterizes fit memes, and how they affect all levels of society.

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