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A catchy spectrum to describe general counsel in terms of willingness to change operational aspects

Paul Lippe, in his email to Legal OnRamp members of Jan. 17, 2012, offers “five phenotypes of change reactors.” They characterize general counsel (and all people) on a spectrum of willingness to try something new.

• Innovators, who do new things because they like doing new things.

• Early adopters, who want competitive advantage over others.

• Pragmatists, who want to stick with the herd.

• Conservatives, who want to hold on.

• Laggards, who simply say “no way.”

Lippe then fleshed out those five ideologies, which my brackets take the liberty of transposing slightly to general counsel.

Laggards: “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” (laggards love strawmen) and “why should I bother? I have [job security].”

Conservatives: “I’ve heard all this before. Nothing will change.” [“The way it was worked better.”]

Pragmatists: “I get it, tell me what to do, what is [my big competitor’s law department] doing?”

Early adopters: “Here are the four initiatives we’ve launched. What do you see that’s working?”

Innovators: “No one is doing enough. My idea is the best one, everyone should adopt it.” [“I’ll speak on panels, write articles, and be interviewed about my favorite topic.”]

From my consulting experience, most general counsel vary in how much they will accept change according to (a) the amount of pressure put on them, (b) the particular domain, such as technology leaps are easier to accept than culture leaps, and (c) their awareness of trends that have reached the status of being commonly discussed.

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