Why not a maturity model for outside counsel management?

So-called maturity models imply best practices and a desirable progression along a ladder of improvement (See my post of May 15, 2009: model for ethics and compliance function.). You can get a taste of one for leadership development in the Harvard Bus. Rev., April 2011 at 133. Its bottom rung is “Inconsistent management training,” next is “Structured Leadership Training,” then “Focused Leadership Development,” and the zenith is reached at “Strategic Leadership Development.” The major shift in this particular maturity model is from training to development.

Mitratech has laid out a maturity model for technology that can be used by corporate counsel. They name the five rungs “Embryonic,” “Emerging,” “Adolescent,” “Established” and “Optimized.” The evolution has to do with how well the software works, its ability to scale up, ease of implementation, and flexibility of customization.

It would be easy to devise a maturity model for outside counsel management. Platitudes and gold-plated phrases could appear effortlessly if that were a scholastic effort divorced from messy reality. It would be the operational differences and choices, however, that would be the struggle and give it construct validity (See my post of Jan. 4, 2011: construct validity tests a concept in real life.). Put more bluntly, the maturity model for managing law firms would not be useful unless you believe there are best practices (not just the avoidance of bad practices).

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