Published on:

Words compared to concepts in law department management

A German professor, Reinhart Koselleck, published a remarkable lexicon of 115 fundamental sociological concepts. The multi-volume work tracks origins, usage and meaning over time of those core ideas. Concepts such as “revolution,” “state,” “civil society,” “democracy,” and “crisis,” are discussed at length, according to an article in the Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 67, April 2006 at 345.

I have tried to offer some definitions of terms that are often used in law department management (See my posts of May 3, 2006 with cites to 23 definitions; May 1, 2006 on “value added’; and May 16, 2006 on “chargeable time.”), and now appreciate that concepts have also appeared often in these posts.

Words may be defined but concepts need to be interpreted. Basic concepts in law department management, such as “centralization,” “client satisfaction,” “productivity,” “reporting,” “structure,” and “technology,” ought to be treated as more than meanings of terms that can be unambiguously defined. According to the article, concepts are “inherently controversial and contested,” and law-department management concepts, the ideas that under-gird most of what is involved in running an effective department, share this protean, ideological, and historical fluidity. They deserve discussion, not just definition.