“A network is a set of interconnected people or things that can communicate with each other, share information and achieve results that would not be possible if the network did not exist.” Richard Koch and Greg Lockwood, Superconnect: Harnessing the power of networks and the strength of weak links (Norton 2010) at 6. Four parts of this definition contain the gist of it.
Interconnected: network participants can reach each other;
Communicate: when they reach each other, they can transmit information back and forth;
Information: information is whatever reduces uncertainty and helps a network participant make a decision; and
Uniquely possible: this is the least obvious part of the definition since everything can be accomplished in a different way. Unlike connection, communication and information, if the definition of a network includes this element of no substitutes, I doubt that there would be any networks.
Listservs for in-house counsel were early networks as are town hall meetings of law departments. A Center of Excellence or a project team forms another kind of network. In the law department world there are other examples of networks. The PLFs of DuPont might communicate some with each other. A joint defense group in a patent law suit is closer to a genuine network. Associations of law firms such as Primerus and Terralex are networks. The fact is, what each of these embodiments accomplishes could be done a different way, so I am not sure of the appropriateness of that fourth definitional element.
A panel of outside counsel is not a network since the law firms on the panel do not communicate with each other. A panel forms a wheel around the spoke of the law department.