A core competency of a law department has to do with its outputs, what it delivers not how it produces it. So, with this definition of the term, it does not include characteristics of the legal team, a mistake I have made several times (See my post of March 15, 2006: integrity; June 26, 2008: set good priorities; June 9, 2010: make decisions; and July 5, 2010: think clearly.). A core competency might be contract execution but it is not effective writing, document assembly, precedent databases, paralegal roles, or templates.
Many posts have dealt with core competencies of law departments (See my post of May 27, 2008: IP lawyers ought to be core competencies quite frequently; Sept. 9, 2009: keys to effectiveness: role clarity, division of labor, core competencies, delegation, resources, and processes; Aug. 17, 2009: performance mapping and key competencies; Jan. 12, 2010: “core/non-core” compared to “critical mission”; and April 28, 2008: no company sees litigation as a core competency.).
A few have given instances of core and non-core services (See my post of May 24, 2005: Cisco divides legal work into “business development” or “transactions, litigation and general corporate support; Aug. 25, 2010: at Johnson Controls, commercial contracts, corporate work, and antitrust; Nov. 9, 2008: not core — anti-counterfeiting, compliance, contract management, environmental health and safety, insurance procurement; lobbying, workers compensation; and May 23, 2008: core competence with 12 references.).