Five ways to organize how we might organize our thinking about law department management

You can find posts here on different conceptual frameworks. Each framework attempts to package and comprehend the multifarious components on law departments.

  1. McKinsey 7S model and similar frameworks. The alliteration is tiresome and forced but the terms cover a lot (See my post of Aug. 8, 2005: McKinsey 7S model.).

  2. Topics of this blog (Benchmarks, Clients, Knowledge Management, Non-Law Firm Costs, Outside Counsel, Productivity, Showing Value, Structure, Talent, Technology, Thinking, and Tools).

  3. Information, networks and decisions. I have written about this trio (See my post of June 9, 2010: key function of a department is decision-making; and Nov. 19, 2010: mathematics underlies three building blocks of management: information theory, network theory, and decision theory.)

  4. Concepts, processes, tools, and decisions. Abstract, but with potential (See my post of July 13, 2008: processes pulled together with 26 references; and Jan. 9, 2012: ten most common tools in retrospect.).

  5. Academic disciplines including anthropology, economics, engineering (design), ethnography, history, neuroscience, psychology, and sociology. Each discipline organizes what law departments are, do, and look like, but each from a different a set of ontological principles.

Other candidates to organize what we observe about law department operations come from tables of contents of books on law department management, risk management perspectives, and systems thinking.

Each framework falls short. Each struggles to shoehorn a very complicated subject into conceptual boxes; they are reductive with a vengeance. They all need extensive definitions for someone to understand their perspective and how they might apply. None of them has presumptive superiority or has been explored or written about more than superficially in light of legal departments. None of them appeal to more than a handful of management intellectuals surrounded by an ocean of pragmatists: “Don’t describe and taxonomize, tell me what to do to improve my legal team.”

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