Think Like a Freak – A law department management breakthrough?

I just finished reading a fascinating book – “Think Like a Freak – The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain your Brain” written by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.

Some of you may be familiar with Freakonomics – It is an award-winning podcast and public-radio project hosted by Stephen Dubner, with co-author Steve Levitt as a regular guest. It is produced in partnership with WNYC. Freakonomics Radio is one of the most popular podcasts in the world, with more than 5 million downloads per month. Levitt was chosen as one of magazine’s “100 People Who Shape Our World” in 2006.

This book offers a refreshing, thought-provoking way at looking at various issues in the world, and I kept thinking about how many of their ideas can be applied to managing a law department.

How Freakonomics thinking can help improve law department effectiveness

Dubner and Levitt are both highly acclaimed economists. Can they really help in improving the management of a law department?

Recent history has taught us that a multidisciplinary approach has often been effectively utilized for problem-solving. A practical use of the multidisciplinary approach occurred during World War II by the Lockheed Aircraft Company. It set up its own special projects operation—nicknamed the Skunk Works—in 1943 to develop the XP-80 jet fighter in just 143 days. (Source: Wikipedia).

It is in this light that I recommend this book. Here are three main points I learned from this book:
· Ask questions – don’t automatically accept the status quo;
· If you ask the wrong question, you’ll surely get the wrong answer; and
· Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”.

Here are some examples of how to apply these lessons to managing a law department


Think Like a Freak Law Department
Ask questions – don’t automatically accept the status quo Some of the best managed law departments that I know have a regular “lessons learned” session reviewing matters recently closed to determine what, if anything, can be done differently in the future to avoid a similar problem from occurring. One law department of which I am aware actually does this same exercise on new claims to see if there is anything they know, based on their experience with similar claims, which can help them dictate their best course of action.
If you ask the wrong question, you’ll surely get the wrong answer See my blog post of March 13th related to KONE Corporation. When they had a series of accidents involving their escalators, they did not merely assume they had a safety issue with their product. They sent investigators into their customer’s store and observed the real reason for the increase in claims.
Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know Develop a general counsel dashboard of “go to” reports to back up decisions. They will serve a twofold purpose:
1) validate your “gut feelings” about a decision

2) help dictate a course of action when you are not sure about an issue



And for all of you who are super busy with your professional and personal lives, I have good news – the book is a “quick read” and entertaining. Click here to learn more:


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