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Ways in which innovations in law department management spread

An article in Sloan Mgt. Rev., Summer 2006 at 85, explores how management innovation happens and disperses (See my post of June 25, 2007 with some comments on the article.). The final stage of dispersion the authors call “internal and external validation.” They discuss four common sources of external validation, which prompted me to think about new ideas in law department management and how those ideas spread.

One validator and propagator of new management ideas are the business school academics who observe an emerging management innovation, codify it, and spread the word (See my post of May 5, 2006 with several management-minded legal academics.). One example is Prof. William Ross of Samford Law School who has research bill padding (See my post of Sept. 17, 2006.). Another is Susan Saab Fortney of Texas Tech Law School (See my post of May 10, 2006.).

A second common source of external validation is the consulting firm that spots a new idea and promotes it. LawPartnering is one example. The General Counsel Roundtable aspires to play this role, although it crosses between vending information and consulting.

The authors’ third source of validation is media, such as the handful of trade journals for law departments. Part of fifth estate are conferences and roundtables (See my post of Dec. 19, 2005 about industry and affinity groups.). With humility, blogs are part of the media.

The final Johnny Appleseed of management innovation, according to the article, are industry associations. ACC and PLC play this role in the spread of new ideas about management of law departments.

I would add that a vendor can pick up a new idea and spread it, which might be how the legal research companies originally flourished. Another example comes from the genesis of LawPack, at one time the leading matter-management system (See my post of Sept. 21, 2005 about Equitable Life and its pollination role.). All kinds of dispersion of new ideas is taking place now with offshore legal vendors