What we notice about management “facts” depends, somehow and at some level, on theory

An article in Historically Speaking, Nov./Dec. 2006 at 11, addresses historians but also speaks to those who try to make sense out of how law departments are managed. The author – Prof. Marc Trachtenberg of UCLA – stresses that, contrary to the popular saying, facts do not speak for themselves.

As applied to law departments, someone’s theory governs what “facts” that person picks out. One or more theories shapes how that person interprets those “facts.” Whoever selects “facts,” for example about how a law department identified and addressed a management problem, operates within the constraints of theory, whether articulated or tacit.

“A theory is above all an instrument of analysis, and depending on what the analysis reveals, it can also serve as the basis for interpretation,” notes Trachtenberg. A theory serves to generate a series of specific questions you can only answer by doing empirical research. A theory gives a law department analyst an architecture, an overview, of what might happen and how to figure things out. But each law department, and the legal industry as a whole, needs objective research to confirm “facts” test the plentiful theories that abound.

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