SWOT

Ten Things: Creating a “SWOT” Analysis of the Legal Department

I remember back in law school making fun of our fellow students who had business degrees.  We called it the “study of the obvious” and mocked them relentlessly.  Of course, I had to run away and hide when they pushed back and asked what my major was – it’s hard to stand tall and claim “political science” as a worthier endeavor.  Still, as always, it’s better to be the mocker than the mock-ee!  Once I went in-house, however, I began to have a much greater and sincere appreciation for all those business majors.  They were paying the bills!  They also had a very analytical and numbers-oriented way of looking at things.  Something that fit nicely with my approach as a lawyer.  Regardless, the first time I heard someone in the business say, “we need to do a SWOT analysis on that,” I thought they were talking about S.W.A.T., a kick-ass police drama from the mid-1970s.[1]  Why we needed to do a special weapons and tactics review of a new product launch escaped me, but I was excited to see how they would pull it off.  Sadly, no hippies or domestic terrorists needed a beating that warm and muggy afternoon in Texas.  Instead, someone started creating a “SWOT” two-by-two box on the whiteboard.  Damn (queue-up glorious choir music).  I quickly saw the beauty in what they were doing.  It was (and is) an elegantly simple way to look at a problem and think through the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats – SWOT.  I knew immediately that I had to steal this SWOT box thing for the legal department as it could easily apply to many things we were doing there.  While some of you likely have experience with SWOT analysis, I am betting that a lot of you have not.  It’s a great tool that I used frequently as general counsel, mostly as a way to strategically look at the legal department as a whole and how best to plan to add value to the business.  This edition of “Ten Things” takes you through how to use a SWOT analysis to analyze the legal department:

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