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A bit of theory describing legal departments as mathematical spaces

Richard Ogle, Smart World: Breakthrough Creativity and the New Science of Ideas (Harv. Bus. School 2007) at 238, introduces the term “space” which he uses “in the mathematical sense of a complex abstract entity characterized by very high dimensionality and therefore connectivity” (See my post of July 25, 2010: network theory extended.).

My gradually evolving sense of legal departments and how to conceptualize them partakes of such notions of a “space.” Dimensions of understanding include the people in departments, the expectations and views of clients, the processes the people rely on, the external resources they draw on, the technology and other infrastructure available to them. Each of those dimensions link to each other, which is the connectivity. Perhaps a tool for depicting all this will come from topology (See my post of May 26, 2007: topological depiction of management initiatives.).

My groping toward a theory of law department management stumbles yet I will continue. I will keep at it because no theoretical framework exists for describing, analyzing, or proscribing law departments. All we have are anecdotes, nostrums, bits and pieces of relationships, unexamined claims, and amateur and fragmented speculations.

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One response to “A bit of theory describing legal departments as mathematical spaces”

  1. Jon Olson says:

    I doubt there ever will be a “unified field theory” that will describe law departments. There is such a diversity of approaches to inhouse practice. That said, one theory that I find useful is the idea that law departments essentially manage the externalities of a business. That is to say, law departments manage the friction point where the untrammelled corporate will meets the greater society. It happens that many of these frictions points are legal in nature; and the many that aren’t strictly legal still benefit from good “lawyering” skills (e.g. the ability to communicate clearly, analyze an issue, build consensus).
    As such, the “space” is at the intersection of corporate strategy and the outside world, with all the layers of politics, culture, personal preference, laws, legal delivery systems, internal process and policy, risk appetite, and technology that entails. Multi-dimensional, indeed !
    -Jon W. Olson
    General Counsel
    Blackbaud, Inc.