Interviewed in a recent article, Met. Corp. Counsel, July 2006, at 30, the Vice President, Legal Operations Administration for Sara Lee’s legal department, declared her view of one dividing line. “The lawyers can focus on legal issues and the operations person or team can focus on business issues.” (See my post of Aug. 1, 2006 on definitions for this senior management position.). Business management is yet another term for what administrators should handle. This covers, for example, the process by which invoices are reviewed and paid, but does not trespass into evaluations of law firms or the direction of what they should work on.
I think senior lawyers in law departments need to be involved, heavily, in the management and operations of their department. The line between substantive legal work and law-department management may look bright, but it should be permeable.
No doubt, the operational functions of a law department benefit from the oversight of someone whose job it is to make sure that the trains run on time. That said, there still remain many decisions about how to manage the department that should not be abdicated by managerial lawyers. Whom do we hire, and fire; where do we handle work inside as compared to outside; how should bonuses be distributed and which law firms are appropriate for us to use? These decisions sound in law not in operations