Social network analysis could reinforce and quantify a depiction of a legal department’s value

Some social network analysts study the frequency and strength of connections between people. For example, an article in the Harvard Mag., May-June 2010 at 46, shows networks for Harvard inventors who applied for patents between 2003 and 2008. The size, color and location of “nodes” – people in the network – conveys quickly and clearly the patterns of collaboration measured by names on patent applications.

Organizational network analysis has much to offer law department managers (See my post of Nov. 6, 2006: organizational network analysis; March 9, 2007 #3: organizational network analysis; Jan. 25, 2009: value of speaking to a person over querying a database; Jan. 25, 2009: decision analysis and network analysis; and April 29, 2010: information technology is a misnomer.).

Let me sketch a scenario. A law department could ask a group of lawyers who serve a particular business unit to list the clients they have advised during the past year and the estimated hours of service. The color of each client’s node would indicate the client’s level. Once all the legal support was mapped out, the flows of legal services would be much more apparent

Ideally, this innovative law department would ask the business clients to submit counterpart data: which lawyers they worked with and how many hours. The combination of lawyer and client data would add rich detail to the lines between nodes of clients and lawyers (called “edges” by network analysts) (See my post of June 14, 2009: queuing theory and infinite source notions.).

By my reckoning, the richer the connections between clients and in-house lawyers, which means penetration by numbers of clients, allocation by seniority, and adequacy of time, the more satisfied are clients. You can add severalqualitative statements of those intellectual networks (See my post of March 30, 2010: difficulties with measuring support of clients.).

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