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Thoughts on portfolios in law department management

The notion of a portfolio, a collection, has many applications in law department management. Legal departments have an assortment of initiatives underway (See my posts of March 27, 2005 about the value of an inventory of them; and Feb. 6, 2007 on an innovation pyramid.); together they comprise a portfolio. Lawsuits make up one or more portfolios, and should be managed as such (See my posts of May 17, 2006; and April 17, 2006 on the beta of a group of cases.).

Patents fall naturally into portfolios (See my post of Jan. 16, 2006 on Ocean Tomo auctions) as do aggregations of current and future matters put out for competitive bid (See my post of Dec. 14, 2005.).

More unusual applications of the portfolio concept demonstrate its range and versatility. For example, decisions made by senior lawyers can be conceptualized that way (See my post of Jan. 17, 2006); there is portfolio view of human capital (See my post of May 10, 2006.); and the range of responsibilities a general counsel or chief legal officer takes on has portfolio characteristics (See my post of Aug. 27, 2005 on the role’s “protean scope.”).

A portfolio view of law department administration is analogous to a process view (See my posts of April 27, May 1, and Oct. 16, 2006 generally on law department processes.) and yields similar benefits: clearer definitions, more precise control, easier rethinking of alternatives, and better metrics.

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