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Institutional isomorphism and legal department practices and benchmarks

Academic theorists have named “the tendency of organizations in a particular sector to converge on a common way of working and set of beliefs that justify that way of working.” Institutional isomorphism is the off-putting label, but the term and its concept could apply to legal departments.

The practices and beliefs of general counsel at legal departments of much size, more so within a country and even more so within an industry, probably tend to become more similar. General counsel hear about a good method and adopt it. Useful innovations therefore evolve and spread – the meme message travels and takes root – and ideological conversion increases. Think of budgets, e-billing, matter management software, in-house e-discovery: the fundamental idea takes hold even though many individual variations persist.

Grist for this heady post came from the Financial Times, Innovative Lawyers 2009 at 44, but there in the context of law firms. The principle likely holds for legal departments. If nothing else, benchmark data pushes corporate legal teams toward more similar characteristics.

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