We’ve discussed the idea of change extensively here on Zen, and although it’s a long time coming in the legal industry, there are pockets of exciting innovation. One such pocket is the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, or CLOC, which has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years (as in 40 members to 1800 members in 3 years). One of CLOC’s core tenets is bringing together the ENTIRE legal ecosystem in order to achieve real, systemic change, and that’s a tenet I can really get behind.
Last week, I had the pleasure to join their CIO/Cybersecurity Initiative task force, and it got me thinking about what’s really necessary for collaboration in the legal ecosystem (and other professional services industries, for that matter). I’d like to share with you my three tips that I saw in action during this CLOC meeting that you can implement today in your firms as you seek to ride the wave of change.
I recently started reading Richard Susskind’s newest book, co-authored with his son, Daniel, about The Future of the Professions. In it, the Susskinds say that:
Very often, after we give talks on our ideas, we are approached by individuals who argue that what we say applies right across the professions except in one field – their own. Lawyers, for example, tend to be quick to argue for a shake-up in our health and education services, but find it less apparent that legal services would benefit from major overhaul.”
However, to embrace change, and truly, in order to collaborate effectively, which will be essential in the new legal marketplace, we need to be more open-minded than that. What if – consider it before dismissing it – the legal industry COULD benefit from change? What if your practice could benefit from change? What if change could make you more efficient and actually more profitable?
When you’re engaging with colleagues, or technologists, or clients, or others in and around the legal ecosystem, embrace a willingness to listen across functions and silos, and maybe leave some of our pre-conceived ideas behind. It’s unsettling for sure, but necessary and incredibly rewarding. When you approach a collaborative discussion with the conviction that you are ready to be open-minded and listen to everyone’s ideas and at least consider them, amazing things can happen.
Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
That brings me to my next tip – the idea of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Change is uncertain. Collaboration can be a risk. So is staying open to new and different ideas, and sometimes hearing things we may not want to hear. In some of these conversations with clients, with technology companies, with other professionals in our firms, we may hear some unpleasant things about the way the business of law has been conducted until now. Not all of them will be true, but many of those grievances will need to be aired in a safe space (and you may need the opportunity to air some of your own), so that a constructive solution can ultimately be reached.
Often, having difficult conversations is what leads to the solutions that we’re all looking for. You may assume you know why a client is behaving in a certain way, but when you dig a little deeper, you uncover an easier fix that you can implement immediately. It takes that first willingness to be open-minded, coupled with the willingness to be uncomfortable, to make real change and come to solutions that are truly collaborative. Both sides feel heard and validated, and forward progress is achieved.
Compromise (or Progress over Perfection)
And that gets us to the final piece of the puzzle – knowing how to compromise. This is a hard one for lawyers, who are hard wired to be perfectionists – lawyers want to know something is going to be right and perfect before it’s launched, otherwise why launch it? (Raise your hand if that sounds like you – I know that’s how I am, and why is that such a bad thing, right?).
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much antithetical to the new change market. So I understand why so many lawyers have put their heads in the sand, their fingers in their ears and are singing “la la la la,” hoping it will go away. But change is here to stay, and it’s not as scary as you think. That’s what collaboration is about – you’re never alone in the process. It’s all a team effort.
There are two pieces to this – the first is compromise: “It may not be perfect NOW, but I’m willing to try it to see if things improve.” Also, “It may not be exactly what I want, but I’m willing to try because I know that the end result may be better than what we’re doing now.” Both of these take a leap of faith, which is essential in collaboration and change management.
The second piece is progress over perfection – we need to be moving the needle forward, even if the project isn’t picture perfect. I saw this in action last week. We have a great stage one in place for the initiative that we’re working on with our task force (more on that soon, right here on Zen, I promise!). And although many people in the room had some questions, there was an understanding that many of those questions would get answered or ironed out in phase two – and so they were willing to agree for the sake of moving the project forward. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress. Some people were a little uncomfortable (see point two), but they made the leap anyway. Compromise, open-mindedness, and being uncomfortable led to some amazing collaboration that is going to lead change and real progress in the legal industry right now – and the good news is that it will make things easier and more efficient for law firms and clients, saving time and money.
When you consider something in those terms, doesn’t it sound like collaboration and change are things you want to get on board with?
When we work together, and bring to the table our open-mindedness, a willingness to compromise, and the ability to be a little bit uncomfortable, brilliant solutions can be reached – there are talented professionals in and outside of this industry that are working together to drive success for everyone. Whether you do that on a large scale, or a small scale, embracing these ideas can bring you successful collaboration as well.