A previous post laid out five stages of development for intellectual property departments (See my post of May 11, 2010: IP maturity ladder.). What I didn’t write was that the metaphor of rungs of development did not ring true, so to speak. The terms to describe them (in ascending order, “defensive’ ‘cost control’, ‘profit center,’ ‘integrated,’ and ‘visionary’ at the top) are too broad, much too conclusory, and packed too thickly with connotations.
Any analogous tiers to describe law departments as a whole would perforce be even more loose, even fatuous. If, for example, we characterized law departments as “basic,” “developing,” “functional,” “progressive,” and “classy,” we would have to plunge deep into definitions and pretend we were avoiding huge amounts of subjective grading. On a given spectrum, such as talent management, it might be easier to swallow a continuum of practice sophistication, but even in a narrower domain the undertaking would be dubious.