Not “lawyers per formal management initiatives” but “one initiative for every other direct report”

Musing about a will-o-the-wisp metric of “lawyers per initiative” in legal departments I conclude that the quest is futile. Even if we define an initiative as a formal management effort and can reliably count them – license a new software system, change the mentoring program, set up a pro bono undertaking – the ratio of such initiatives to lawyers in the department likely produces a spurious mathematical artifact.

But then, perhaps something on the order of approximately one initiative underway for every other direct report to the general counsel might be more easily defended. After all, some grooming of possible successors takes place (and managerial abilities need practice and testing) and senior lawyers are most likely to be placed in charge of a change effort. Perhaps as a rough rule of thumb for how much change your department can absorb, you might think in terms of a ratio such as this. Each year, focus on an important shift in behavior – a managerial initiative in the department – for every two or three direct reports to the top lawyer.

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