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Positivism and its perspectives on knowledge about law department management

The set of philosophical beliefs known as “positivism” holds that objective truth exists, that humans can accurately understand those truths, and that scientific tools best enable us to do so. Measurement, rationality, certainty, and comprehension are neither ironic nor useless terms; they connote reliable and effective beliefs that are backed up by known truths. Those who put metrics and benchmarks on a pedestal adhere to positivistic beliefs. This blogger believes that we can actually know and understand much about legal departments and how they operate.

In opposition to positivistic views of knowledge are postmodern views (See my post of Sept. 22, 2008: postmodern critiques of best practices.). Postmods do not believe in objective facts or that ways of thinking have primacy over other ways of thinking. Much or all of what we perceive and think we comprehend is mere social construction, relative to a time and a place, subject to epistemological weaknesses of all kinds. This blogger sort of understands postmodernism, intellectually, but feels that as a way of coming to grips with effective management of legal departments it offers nothing constructive. My bent is pragmatism shot through with positivism.

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One response to “Positivism and its perspectives on knowledge about law department management”

  1. Jon Olson says:

    I think that in-house counsel are necessarly positivists- not too many C-level executives or Board members are keen on having strategic plans, risk assessments, and financial forecasts deconstructed through a prism of relativism.
    That said, many of the foibles of corporate life, sometimes irrational and occasionally ironic, do seem amenable to a post-modern interpretation.
    Perhaps in-house counsel are the ultimate positivists, creating Ordo ex Chao, even where there is little order to be found.
    Thanks for the food for thought.
    -Jon W. Olson
    GC, Blackbaud, Inc.