The earliest economists, such as Adam Smith, David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill, wrote in natural language and used narrative to describe what they understood. Most of what we now understand about how law departments operate comes in narrative discourse. We read someone’s armchair ideas about good management and wade through anecdotes and descriptive articles and small aspects of the topic.
Later, more formal economists developed theories such as that of Keynes on government intervention in the economy. A theory specifies how the major elements of a situation fit together. For example, no careful theory explains how large a law department should be. Law department managers, academics and consultants have yet to articulate anything close to comprehensive, explanatory theories.
Most recently, mathematical models allow economists to specify the inter-workings of a system and quantify their roles. A model “must be stringent if it is to be of any use. Assumptions must be sufficiently simple and precise to allow the play of logic and mathematics, yet not so restricted as to eliminate the mechanism itself,” David Warsh, Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery (Norton 2006 at 143).
Drivers of litigation costs may someday be modeled. Process maps might now be considered a meld of theory and model (See my post of Aug. 28, 2005 with some criticisms.), but we are years away from mathematical models of law department management.