This series of four looks at the management activities in law departments at four levels: priorities, programs, projects, and practices. Each post defines a level, gives examples, and touches on some observations about the level. Let’s start with priorities.
Priorities are the fundamental contributions delivered or expected of an in-house legal team. Mission statements purport to summarize priorities. Priorities typically include people, quality, client satisfaction, cost, and roles (See my post of March 20, 2008: mission statement with 17 references.) but law departments that have not prepared a mission statement still pursue priorities.
Some corollaries of priorities occur to me:
Actions speak louder than words. General counsel have to back up lofty phrases with concrete behavior.
You shouldn’t push too many priorities simultaneously. Every important emphasis creates trade-offs and a law department can only absorb so much.
Priorities are often unstated, although they may find expression in apocryphal stories, jokes, and cultural artifacts such as office sizes and locations.
It’s a truism that a law department ought to align its priorities with its company’s objectives.
The tension for law departments with priorities is between risk reduction and profit expansion. How much does the law department keep the brakes the entrepreneurs.