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Top ten reasons not to publish a Top Ten List of Management Trends for Law Departments

I admire the report just issued by Fronterion Top Ten Trends for Legal Outsourcing in 2012. The full version is at As I thought about trying to write a counterpart for law department management, another part of my mind objected. The objections carried the day.

  1. Trend-spotting has an air of astrology. When you generalize grandly, you leave all kinds of interpretative flexibility. “Law departments will seek increasing flexibility and inward-outwardness.”

  2. When you pronounce ex cathedra – “Law departments will exhibit more managerial agility” – you sacrifice the grounded grit of specificity. You smooth and polish reality to such a high shine it blinds.

  3. You must assume a time frame during which the predictions will bear out, and you are certain to overstate short-term changes and understate fundamental changes (See my post of Feb. 21, 2011: technology’s effects mis-interpreted.).

  4. The trends say more about the seer (reverse of Rees) than about reality. All kinds of cognitive biases run amok.

  5. What you decide to label as a “trend” has all kinds of epistemological challenges (See my post of Jan. 2, 2009: trends in management of law departments with 7 references.).

  6. Connotations permeate the order and wording of the trends.
    Apart from their accuracy, your trends rely on rickety words and are laden with intended or unintended meanings.

  7. All trends imply less of the opposite or the status quo, but that flip side is rarely adequately discussed. Progressive improvement is the only order of the day.

  8. The trend spotter ought to disclose biases (like trying to sell consulting services), assumptions, framework. For example, U.S. law departments of an approximate size, leaning toward large departments.

  9. Hopes, especially those nurtured by ideology, do not trends make. A trend should be based on actual instances likely to spread, not a platform or agenda.

  10. Ten is an arbitrary number, expected in a Letterman culture, and that goal can force a predictor to fabricate a weak reason or two.