In network terminology, large law departments and large law firms considered together constitute a “small world”

Richard Koch and Greg Lockwood, Superconnect: Harnessing the power of networks and the strength of weak links (Norton 2010) frequently refers to certain kinds of networks as “small worlds.” Nothing to do with planetary size, the term describes a collection of “nodes” – groups that numbers of people belong to with relatively close affinity – that have people who belong to and bridge multiple nodes. Those bridging interconnectors allow ideas to spread quickly between the nodes.

In a small world network, you can easily connect to anyone you want to within the network (at 14). A small world means that the well-known six-degrees-of-separation, made famous in connection with Kevin Bacon, applies. There may be high clustering around the various nodes but there are also ample connections between the nodes.

It is certain that in the aggregate, large law departments and large law firms operate as a small world network. Pick any random in-house lawyer in the Fortune 500 or an AmLaw 100 law firm. That lawyer is no more than three or four people away from any other lawyer. For example, the in-house lawyer knows her general counsel who knows the managing partner of the firm who knows the law firm lawyer – three degrees of separation.

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