All processes and practices in legal departments have pros, cons and cuts-both-ways

Every practice of a law department falls somewhere on a spectrum of related activities (See my post of Nov. 26, 2006 that explains this continuum notion.). It is also evident that each practice has its proponents and its opponents. Because of disagreements over values, the complexity of the social system within and around a law department, and unintended consequences, every management decision made in a law department has not only tradeoffs but also pros and cons.

Take centralized reporting. For one of my consulting clients I identified more than 20 factors that influence the desirability or undesirability of having all practicing lawyers report to the general counsel. Additional factors have influence one way or the other depending on context. For examples of management choices that arouse debate, see my posts of Nov. 14, 2005 (forced ranking of employees); Dec. 16, 2005 (partnering); and Dec. 11, 2006 (discounts on billing rates); June 30, 2006 (tracking and charging internal lawyer time.).

Just a toting up arguments for and against a practice isn’t nearly thoughtful enough. A person ought to weight the relative persuasiveness of each argument in the context of the company, the law department’s personnel, and their needs.

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