Another silver-tongued platitude, but how in the world do you implement it?

Having just railed at “win-win” fee arrangements, I might as well lash out at another empty slogan. This one slithers out of a profile in Corp. Bd. Mbr., Vol. 12, 2nd Quarter 2009 at 46, where a general counsel touts her “efficiency strategy.” Under that strategy, the legal department “make[s] sure the right people are doing the right job, so that senior lawyers don’t do work junior lawyers can do or outside counsel doesn’t do work in-house counsel can do.”

After your applause dies down, stop and think how you would make sure that salutary tango happens in your law department? How do you figure out whether the “right people are doing the right job” and what do you alter when you find it is not true? Your complement of people and their skills doesn’t change often; your work coming into the department has the same general characteristics.

My point is far from a criticism of “right work-right person”; indeed, that is an admirable goal. My objection is that how you implement the nostrum presents boatloads of difficulties.

High-sounding aspirations, such as “do things right the first time,” “don’t reinvent the wheel,” “think hard about long-term implications,” and “do the right thing,” all glitter with grandeur and catchiness, but such glib truisms of management are all infinitely harder to do than to say (See my post of Jan. 18, 2007: platitudes don’t give useful advice; Aug. 3, 2005: “alignment with clients” is glib; June 20, 2008: muddled platitude about clients and value; Feb. 22, 2009: action and achievement verbs; and March 20, 2008: mission statements with 17 references.).

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