C.P. Snow’s two cultures; tension between management of processes and of people

The British academic, C.P. Snow, distinguished between the intellectual cultures of scientists and humanists. Snow could have extended that distinction, perhaps, to law department managers.

Managers in law departments who think primarily in terms of economic concepts, metrics, processes and structure – all devoid of humans and their passions and needs – belong to Snow’s first camp – rationalist, positivist scientists. Those lawyer managers who think primarily in terms of people, training, knowledge and engagement – the softer sciences and the non-quantifiable features of law departments – fall into the camp of the romantic humanists (See my post of May 16, 2007 on multidisciplinary views of law department management.).

Like the infamous Cartesian split between soul and body, a divide that is increasingly under attack as factitious, well-run law departments should not slight either side of the equation. General counsel and other managers ought to bridge Snow’s two cultures. Law department processes must function effectively and, just as important, people must be capable and motivated.

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