Lawyers are trained to be adversarial, to be cautious, reluctant to disclose information, to keep their cards close to their chest, to protect their knowledge … so being collaborative with other lawyers, internal support teams, clients does not come easily. Coaxing them to think and work operate differently is a challenge, where supporting IT tools that make information more visible and tangible can help hugely.
I agree with this thought-provoking post on collaboration in law firms from Mark Cohen, which elaborates on this topic.
All true – and I would extend the value of collaboration further, to working relationships with clients and referrers of work.
That’s where the biggest direct returns can be realised, with some innovative thinking and effective implementation of new collaborative initiatives alongside clients. There is untapped potential – requiring a collaborative attitude amongst lawyers (that is still rare for the reasons you set out well here) – to deliver new service propositions that involve more engagement with clients and referrers (with IT creating more potential) through a more open approach to doing the legal job. That’s where lawyers can add a lot more value to their service by opening up a different kind of relationship.
And yes, I agree on internal collaboration too – needed to be able to deliver efficient services in a motivating working environment. A major benefit of the work we’ve done on “lean” business process thinking. Works in tandem with developing that different collaborative approach with clients.
All of which should start by listening to clients to understand their business.