Law department management, nowhere near a theoretical unity or a discipline, is mostly a way of thinking

John Maynard Keynes, eloquent and acute as always, offered his view on the study of economics and its tenuous link to practical applications: “The theory of economics does not furnish a body of settled conclusions immediately applicable to policy. It is a method rather than a doctrine, an apparatus of the mind, a technique for thinking, which helps the possessor to draw correct conclusions.” Keynes is quoted in the NY Times, Dec. 4, 2011 at BU 4.

Notions of how law departments are or should be managed are nowhere near as delineated and theorized as economics (See my post of June 6, 2006: best practices with 4 references; and Feb.14, 2009: best practices with 24 references and one metapost.).

Even so, just as economists don’t agree on what policies to follow, but at least try to think about problems with similar tools and assumptions, so too law department managers who try to honor an emerging discipline – such as it is – can’t say what is best but can share a framework for thinking about it. I’m doubtful there is even an inchoate, consensus framework (See my post of Jan. 5, 2010: economics, sociology and psychology as frameworks.). Aptitude as a manager in a legal department follows from a way of thinking, pragmatism, and a set of tools, not theory (See my post of July 8, 2011: toolbox-style management.).

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