A trend may be a healthy movement to adopt something new, such as more para-professionals in legal departments, matter management software, benchmark metrics, or management by objectives. A trend simply says that increasing numbers of legal departments are adopting a practice, but not necessarily that it is a good practice (See my post of March 16, 2009: a best practice is not necessarily a trend; and Dec. 30, 2009: how hard it is to spot trends from matter management systems.).
Movements that I would label as trends include alternative fee arrangements, client self-service, co-location of lawyers in relation to revenue, competitive bids, compliance reporting to law, core competencies, environmental sensitivity, e-billing, knowledge management, matrix reporting (regional counsel), offshoring, panels, partnering, project management, social networking, and succession planning (See my post of Jan. 2, 2009: trends in management of law departments with 7 references.).
Fads, by contrast, emerge, surge, and then fade. Bill auditing by third parties would be one example as might convergence, document assembly, discovery counsel across cases, expert systems, internal discovery teams, mentoring, law department as profit center, online auctions, portals, Six Sigma and TQM.
Four authors of an article in the Acad. Mgt. J., Dec. 2000 at 1145, wrote that management fashions follow a bell-shaped curve in terms of their lifecycle. The stages they pass through are “(1) invention, when marginal awareness of the fashion arises, (2) acceptance, when the fashion is implemented, (3) disenchantment, when evaluation of and frustration with the fashion occur, and (4) decline, or the cessation of the fashion.” They also observed 10 years ago that the lifecycles of management fashions were shortening. Everyone wants the latest sip of the management elixir but they speedily toss the cup.