Uses of flow charts and short summaries, including to explain choices to clients

Rather than a long email or memorandum, an in-house lawyer might depict various choice points and possibilities of a complex situation by means of a flow chart. Many people can grasp branching alternatives and complex relationships better from a diagram – either a flow chart or a process map – than they can from text.

What’s the difference between a flow chart and a process map? One source says that a process map is a flow charting method that uses general symbols and arrows to show the flow of the manufacturing process. A flowchart is a tool that shows the inputs, activities and outputs from a process. Some authorities distinguish between flow charts and process maps because maps have more detail and include a timeline (See my posts of Jan. 10, 2008 #3: process maps; Aug. 28, 2005 on process maps.). The differences don’t matter to law department lawyers; both methods are useful in several ways.

The technique brings benefits more broadly than when in-house counsel explain something to their clients. In a like manner, a law department might ask a law firm to describe a legal issue schematically, with a flow chart. Similarly, these graphics can make clearer for those in a law department how to think through and handle a commonly-encountered situation.

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