An inquiry whether older legal departments surpass younger ones in innovation

An article in the Admin. Sci. Quarterly, March 2000, at 81, explores age of companies and their pace of innovation. Its discussion bears on law departments, I believe. Apparently there are two schools of management thought. Organizational ecologists find the liability of newness, others find the liability of senescence.

What that dense sentence means in our context is that new law departments struggle just to survive so their tolerance for creative management steps is low on the dial. Or, unfettered by tradition and “this is how it’s always been done,” fresh departments (say, less than five years old) can take the path less travelled and that will make all the creative difference.

Established, older departments have the basics down pat, have some time and slack resources to breath, so to speak, and therefore can innovate. That is the argument that links maturity and innovation. Or, as some people believe, they become atrophied, rigid and conservative.

Unfortunately, we can talk all we want about this not-quite raging debate, but we have no empirical evidence either way, yet. My sense, for what it is worth, is that established departments test new ideas more than do fledgling departments because they have become competent in basic managerial steps and want to move on.

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