Collaboration: The Vital Ingredient to Law Firm Success

‘‘Cooperative arrangement in which two or more parties work jointly towards a common goal.” – Definition of collaboration, Business Dictionary website

The need for successful collaboration in the delivery of legal services is crucial. Whether this is relating to collaboration between peers, within differing layers of a firm’s hierarchy or between lawyers and non-lawyers, those who are able to work together successfully will be ahead of the pack.

Despite the above definition appearing to have collaboration at its core, law firms in particular are known to put less of an emphasis on the collective. Is this driven by the concept of the billable hour? Or perhaps the move away from the traditional lockstep model which has put more emphasis on individual performance rather than collective strength? Whatever the driver, it seems that genuine collaboration between individual lawyers, non-fee earning members and the firm’s global network can lack consistency in the eyes of lawyers and clients alike.

The competitive nature of the current legal landscape has put pressure on law firms to deliver cost effective solutions, often with a cross-border element. The successful delivery of these services is now under greater scrutiny and collaboration will play a central part of this process. Project management, business development and in-house technology teams have become essential additions to law firm infrastructure, shaping how the delivery of legal services is received by clients. For that reason, developing the relationships amongst these teams and lawyers will greatly affect the quality of legal services a firms can provide.

Individual mind-sets limit the extent to which lawyers are able to collaborate and provide integrated, streamlined services to their clients. Lawyers are naturally competitive and aren’t accustomed to working in collaboration or sharing information with peers. Typical remuneration models further block these efforts, as sometimes does the partnership model, and when assessing cross-border working methods, different cultural attitudes and behaviour will also affect how open a law firm is to the idea of collaboration. There is no doubt that the culture of law firms and their partnerships has changed in recent decades and with this, their business model has changed. As the need to continue evolving and progressing is constant, law firms must ensure underlying cultural support for this change.

As the market seems to be demanding better collaboration of its lawyers, the challenge remains as to how individuals within firm’s best do so. Whilst technology is pushing the industry into a new era and the size and scale of international firms continues to expand, there remains a basic necessity for interpersonal collaboration to bring all these things together. This fundamental need for personal collaboration might be the greatest challenge expanding firms face, but it could also represent the greatest opportunity for these firms to differentiate themselves in the market.

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