Further reflections on culture in law departments

The term “culture” in the context of law departments is slippery (See my post of Nov. 20, 2007: culture in law departments and references cited.) but whatever its meanings, people often acknowledge its presence. “That’s not the way we do things around here.” Let’s look at a few aspects of culture.

Culture in a law department is malleable. It is influenced in large measure by the general counsel. Consequently, the longer someone holds that position, the deeper the imprint on the department’s culture.

Culture makes a difference in recruitment and retention (See my post of Jan. 4, 2008: socialization.). People tend to hire others who are like themselves and evidence similar values and culture.

Culture alters productivity; it may help it or hinder it (See my posts of Oct. 22, 2006: bureaucracy; and June 30, 2007: workaholism.).

Culture might be thin, barely an influence on people, or it might be thick, palpably making a difference. Most people who have been around for a few years barely notice the culture in their own legal department. As a rule, we all adjust and take for granted our circumstances. But cultural norms are still very powerful.

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