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“Influence diagrams” help clarify relationships among factors that shape a major legal event

Complex legal situations, such as a major product challenge, a factory explosion, deregulation, or disturbances in a country where a company has several plants, can be explored through this technique of formal visualization. As described in the Harvard Bus. Rev., Vol. 84, May 2006 at 28-29 (Baruch Fischoff ), influence diagrams “challenge you to think clearly about what you know and don’t know. They require you to map explicitly the relationships among the factors shaping a vital event.”

Take a devastating explosion at a company site. An influence diagram would have gray ovals (outcome nodes) for potential impacts, such as a wave of adverse publicity and emergency teams; white ovals (chance nodes) for factors determining those impacts, such as statements by the CEO or securities filings. And the diagram would shows in orange rectangles (action nodes) interventions that might blunt the explosions effects, such as insurance, legislation, or victim mediation boards.

An influence diagram helps a law department’s managers come to grips with an overwhelming, complex scenario, and sense poor or missing information, untested assumptions, or unrealized cause-and-effect sequences.

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