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Law department goals, processes, practices, and methods – a framework for these as well as concepts

Every law department has proximal goals and distal goals. Proximal goals are to reduce legal risks of the organization, to deliver legal advice to it, to resolve legal disputes involving it, and to handle legal documents on its behalf. Those goals that are distal, secondary goals necessary to achieve the primary goals, include to maintain sufficient numbers of skilled staff, to retain outside counsel as needed, to implement technology and systems, and to accumulate know-how. The latter set of goals is secondary because the purpose of a law department is not to spend time and resources on them except as a means to the primary ends.

To achieve its goals, of both the ultimate and supportive kind, a law department implements and hones numerous processes. A process is a series of understood and related steps done repeatedly with a definable purpose to accomplish a foreseeable outcome. For example, one process done at least yearly decides raises for lawyers. Another process maintains the corporate books and records of the company.

Each process in a law department can be accomplished in various ways by the selection of methods. If the process is to select outside counsel, to pick one, a law department can (a) use an RFP, (b) select a panel and assign work according to that decision, (c) send the matter to a firm that handles all those kinds of matters for the company, (d) let the responsible lawyer choose the firm, (e) require approval of the general counsel, or (f) mix and match an infinite variety of methods.

Finally, as it pursues its ultimate goals through processes customized by its methods, a law department can select from a wide variety of tools. The term “tools” encompass accountings, communications, databases, decision aids, guidelines, meetings, reports, spreadsheets, statistics, surveys, and many more. Every tool can contribute to every method.

In this framework, one more piece of the taxonomy belongs to broad concept groups that embrace families of methods and tools. Instances of management concepts include change management, convergence, partnering, project management, quality control, Six Sigma, and TQM.

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