In our discussions over the last few years about the future of the law firm, the one thing that has become abundantly clear is that for lawyers and firms to be successful, they will have to learn to collaborate effectively and efficiently. In her book, Heidi Gardner calls this “Smart Collaboration.” I had the chance to see Gardner present at the CLOC conference in February, and recently finished her book, and I can’t recommend it enough – for anyone in professional services looking to be successful over the next ten years, this is a must-read.

Gardner looks at collaboration from a few distinct viewpoints, and makes the case for it in a variety of ways. The one that strikes me initially is her final chapter, in which she discusses collaboration from the point of view of the client. Clients are deeply committed to the idea of collaboration, but obviously, they want to make sure that they’re paying for good value. Not surprisingly, collaboration is good for both the firm and the client. I’m not going to go into the reasons why your firm should be investing in the idea of smart collaboration (think better success in the war for talent/clients; doing higher value work more efficiently and effectively; being a differentiator, etc.) but instead, I want to look at the reasons why collaboration adds value for your clients, and specifically, how members of a law firm network can use their membership to effectively communicate this value and enhance their collaborative skills. 
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Lawyers know better than most people that words matter – after all, who knows better than a contract lawyer that a nuanced clause can make or break a deal?

But who knows better than your marketing team that “marketing” is a four-letter word?

It shouldn’t be – and I’ll explain why in a moment.

But how many of you (raise your hands) think of marketing as something that some group in your office does once in a while?

How many of you think of marketing as brochures and advertisements?

How many of you think marketers are just people who ask you for money and then put pretty logos together or make sure you have enough business cards?

Okay, put your  hands down. I’ve got news for you – marketing is everything you do.
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Lawyers, don’t panic – this isn’t as scary as it sounds.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop on leadership that encouraged some out-of-the-box thinking – the session integrated improv techniques into various business applications. I hate anything that feels like an icebreaker (I prefer routine and structure), so I was already pre-programmed to prefer sitting in a conference room listening to a speaker than to engage in improv.

But I was pleasantly surprised – and while some of the tips seemed silly at first (or may not work for every situation), I could definitely see the benefits of incorporating them.

Two of my favorites were “Yes, and…” and applauding all ideas. 
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While I’m out of the office this week, I’m really pleased to be bringing you a special guest post from one of the ILN’s member professionals. Alice Steen, Knowledge Manager at Holmes O’Malley Sexton, discusses best practices for developing a learning culture in your organization.

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Alice Steen, Knowledge Manager, at Holmes O’Malley Sexton reflects on ten years of learning and development (L&D) – providing strategic planning, specialist training, funding and supports for the staff’s further education, career and professional development at the thriving full service law firm.

Alice is a qualified solicitor with post graduate qualifications in higher education, teaching and learning, together with being a Lean Black Belt.

Alice joined Holmes O’Malley Sexton (HOMS Solicitors) in 2008 when it had just one office and 26 practising solicitors, 2 legal executives and 3 trainees. She has witnessed the firm’s solicitors, legal executives and trainee numbers grow by nearly 300% along with now having four offices in London, Dublin, Limerick and Cork. The nature and demands of her own role have changed dramatically as a result.
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Being a strong leader is something that a lot of us aspire to, whether we’re serving in a position of leadership or not – whatever our role in our firms, the way we work, collaborate, and engage with others has a big impact on them. Knowing your strengths, and leveraging them, can help you create great teams within your firm, and as collaboration is key to success, this is a skill we certainly want to pursue.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to take a strengths assessment test called StrengthsFinder, which provided me with five themes, and what stood out within each of those themes (more on my results later).  In the follow up to taking this assessment, I learned that we’re all inclined to want to focus on areas of weakness and how to improve them. 61% of people believe that we grow most in areas of greatest weakness [statistics and themes are from a session with Alycia Sutor, of then Akina Corporation, now GrowthPlay].

That’s why we address weaknesses in performance reviews, and ask people to change or strengthen those areas. Even when we’re looking critically at our own performances, we’re looking for feedback on areas where we can do better, what our liabilities are, and how we can improve or mitigate them. 
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I’m thrilled to announce that JD Supra has included me in this year’s Readers Choice Awards, which acknowledge top authors and firms for their thought leadership in key topics. I was selected from among thousands of authors published in 2018 for the level of visibility and engagement attained with readers on the topic of marketing and business development.

We also have two ILN member recognized – Patricia Wagner and E. John Steren of Epstein Becker & Green were recognized as top authors in Antitrust & Trade Regulation.

You may remember that we had Lance Godard contribute a guest post a few years ago on three reasons why every lawyer should study the JD Supra awards, and these are just as relevant today, so I encourage you to check these out. To recap:

  1. Clients read what they need to know
  2. Content marketing works
  3. Less is definitely not more

Read more to find out why the awards are relevant to you, even if you haven’t participated or been recognized, and how you can make use of them in your practice. 
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Following on our last post about Steve Harmon’s trends to watch in legal, I wanted to share some of his other key takeaways from his session at the CLOC Institute in London. Each of these takeaways, while directed at the legal operations audience, is relevant throughout the legal industry and are key driving factors for how we’ll be able to achieve change.

Collaboration Drives Success

We’ve focused on this idea previously, and it was a strong theme throughout the CLOC institute. True, smart collaboration can feel unfamiliar, and a bit uncomfortable in the legal profession, but there are strong business cases for it (we’ll get into those in a bit more detail when we discuss Heidi Gardner’s session on collaboration). Harmon said that legal operations professionals aren’t “stewards of process, but drivers of results.” Having the best process isn’t a differentiator if it’s not tied to business results (this is true within law firms as well). Because of that, it’s possible to share best practices without impacting differentiation or competition. That’s also true across the legal industry, and is a call for more, and not less, collaboration.
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We’re a few weeks out now from the CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium) Institute in London, and I’m finally jumping into some recaps. There was some truly excellent content during the conference, and not just for legal operations folks, but with transferable lessons for everyone in the legal industry. Over the next few weeks, I’ll dive into a few of the sessions and look at what we discussed, starting with Steve Harmon’s presentation on the Evolving Role of the Corporate Legal Department & the Implications for Legal Operations Teams. Harmon is the Deputy General Counsel at Cisco and General Counsel at Elevate, and a CLOC board member.
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I’m bringing you a treat today, Zen readers! A post from the ILN’s own Jenn Smuts – and it’s a good one. Prepare to get uncomfortable and start asking yourself the hard questions.

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Last week Lindsay asked the Zen audience about whether they were still feeling inspired with the arrival of the new year, then she afforded us three “inspiration” ideas.  This post is going to take her ideas: reading, writing and thinking, and elaborate on one goal – leveraging women in the profession.
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A few years ago, I wrote a post centered around the idea of needing a strong audience in order to make the content that you’re writing valuable. While content development is a piece of the overall puzzle, this idea is easily expanded, especially in today’s market. Something that I’ve heard a LOT from lawyers is that to be successful, you simply need to be a good lawyer. So that’s the question that we’re looking at today – if you build a good practice, will clients just show up?

The short answer is no. And in your hearts, you know that.

It’s simply not enough to be a good lawyer these days. You could be the BEST lawyer there is – the most technically gifted, the best educated, even the most experienced. But if no one knows who you are, does it even matter? 
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