Ripples from the Romantic Era in some law department managers

Eighteenth and nineteenth century Romanticism has been viewed as a reaction to the perceived hyper-rationality advocated by Enlightenment thinkers. For Romantics, passion and ineffable beauty, pastoral values and the soul, heart and community, all were dimensions of life appreciated mostly by art, literature and music and not to be dismissed by the cerebral coldness of science.

So too, a Romantic view in law departments extols teamwork and collegiality, the deep wells of creativity, collective spirit, supportiveness and partnering with avuncular law firms. That spirit warns against benchmarks, process maps, performance goals, time tracking, software databases, and all disciplined, means-end management. Not structure and process but feelings and fluidity.

Much as I tried to write this post neutrally, it must be blazingly clear to my regular readers that I side with Enlightenment over Romantic values. The unfathomable depths of human beings and all their cluttered complexity may well be the fulcrum of law departments but they are so mutable and resistant to tangible recommendations. Stick to improving the parts that can be studied, the domain of empirical and positivistic understandings, I say, even while you acknowledge that everything depends on the people.

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