Let’s not be economic determinists when we think of law department management

A framework or model consists of a set of concepts, while a theory explains how, why, and when the concepts are related. A useful theory explains and predicts.

One framework to explain law departments and how they operate relies on economics. Input and output, costs of resources, return on investment and other analytic tools of economists have appeal as useful and explanatory.

Several other frameworks might match that one, complement it, or improve on it. For example, information and decision-making, which amount to the same thing at a fundamental level, also includes reduction of uncertainty. The combination could permit a useful theoretical framework.

Network theory raises its hand as a possibility. Connections between clients and counsel, between counsel and law firms, between counsel and regulators – they all share network characteristics and insights about nodes, frequency and directness.

Or the humanities majors could explain and predict: sociology, psychology and ethnography – the workings of the human mind collectively and individually.

Perhaps change management will turn out to yield more as an explanatory model. Good law departments grow, restructure, shift resources and responsibilities, and otherwise cope with the stresses of change.

Risk recognition and mitigation might fit better. I wonder, though, about a model that depends on the unmeasurables of risk avoided – but the law is, after all, about risk avoided.

No one has systematically thought through the implications and insights of any of these frameworks,so consider this a seed discussion.

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