Free-riders and rent-seekers in law departments

Rent-seekers, a term used by economists and political scientists for those who extort extra benefits because of their power, exist in law departments. A Deputy General Counsel who balks at agreeing to a new software package may get a pass on having her team have to use it for a year; another senior lawyer may withhold approval of a firm for the panel until her favored firm is added.

Free-riders enjoy the fruits of others’ efforts without doing any plowing, hoeing or watering: for example, they draw on the laboriously compiled corporate policies but never contribute any or work on them; they proudly talk about the innovation award won by the department but remain reactionary; they make ample use of the library’s resources but don’t serve on the committee for it.

An astute and observant general counsel will deal with power brokers and parasites. This blog has touched on the economic tems rent and free rider (See my post of March 22, 2006: free riders; April 27, 2006: rents; and July 29, 2007: economic rents.).

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