“Do more with less” – heard all the time but dare we probe a bit?

Any general counsel on a panel, many journalists finishing off an article on in-house departments, and all consultants in pitches to general counsel scatter this phrase everywhere. Gospel it has become that workloads are up and resources are down. I wonder.

I wonder how you prove the claimed imbalance and pace have worsened (See my post of Nov. 23, 2008: how difficult it is to prove how hard internal lawyers are working.).

I wonder whether complexity of legal work has actually increased, despite everyone’s assertion that it has (See my post of March 13, 2007: complexity with 4 references; and Dec. 27, 2008: complexity of legal practice with 20 references.). Abilities and codified knowledge have also increased.

I wonder whether the recession has reduced the volume of legal work, overall, since business activity has hibernated, and lawyers essentially react to business activity.

I wonder whether headcount reductions have actually cleared out under-performers and sometimes allowed those who remain to flourish. And whether “work contracts to fill more efficiently the available time.”

I wonder whether law firms, hungry for work, have been will to do more for less.

I wonder whether improvements in operational management (e-billing, document management, secondments, process redesign, priority setting) have risen to the challenge.

Without data, how can we not wonder whether sheer repetition has spawned a truism, a platitude, a mantra of occupational burden.

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