Anecdotes about a law department and its success at something leave much to be desired

All of us who care about management in legal departments are grateful to learn what specific departments have done to address specific issues. From “YYY Company hired partners who are twins because it is easier to figure them out,” to “ZZZ Company put shredders next to each paralegal’s desk to gain 15% productivity,” all real-life examples help us learn, but not a whole lot.

Single instances of something, or even a “trend” of two or three instances touted by a journalist or consultant, can give little confidence in the underlying explanation. We can’t rely on the accuracy of descriptions, the objectivity of authors, the fullness of context, or cause-and-effect conclusions. Only if we can study the phenomenon broadly can we hope to generalize learning.

A theory about management needs to be testable: “the theory must make predictions which, if the theory were false, could be contradicted by the outcome of some possible observation.” This comes from David Deutsch, in The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World (Viking 2011) at 13.

Enter benchmarks. If a group of twin-hiring departments have better results or lower costs than a comparable group of law departments that ignore Gemini, a prediction of benefits would be supported. If benchmark metrics shred, shall we say, the practice of shredders at deskside, then that touted advantage fails.

Without predictions and empirical data, we meander with a grab-bag of notions conveyed to us by self-promotion, trade-press fodder, blinkered ideology, reputation burnishing, and chance.

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