Every activity in a law department is part of a process, although processes vary hugely in their granularity (See my posts of April 27, 2006 which defines processes; May 1, 2006 about the breadth of the term; June 28, 2006 on their importance; and Aug. 13, 2006 on components of processes.). At the macro end, virtually everything a department does could be considered one process: helping the company avoid legal problems. At the micro end there can be processes for putting RFID tags on file folders or shredding all drafts of environmental remediation plans (See my post of Oct. 18, 2006 on shredders.).
The term “tools” covers all the instrumentalities that help those in a law department accomplish processes. A tool is a personnel evaluation form, a budget, a database of leases, an OCR scanner, a statistical breakdown, or a group e-mail distribution list.
What makes the term “processes” elusive is that each process can be subdivided into smaller processes; likewise most processes can be aggregated into a larger, broader-scale process. In a similar way, tools can often be broken down into sub-tools. For example, technology is a high-level tool, which encompasses the department’s matter management system, which has the component tool of e-billing, based on the LEDES98b standard tool.
Tools can also be combined into a higher-level tool. For example, a line item is a portion of the budget tool. At the same time, a budget is one of several tools for the cost-control process.