While being interviewed for a podcast yesterday morning, the host asked me what I saw as the primary trend for the future of law firms. Although my answer is simple, the work behind it is not – collaboration.

We’ve talked about Heidi Gardner’s book, Smart Collaboration, before (and I again highly recommend reading it). One of the things Gardner addresses in the book is the barriers to collaboration. I’m sure many of these will be familiar to you, and that she’s so adept at identifying them should give you comfort that she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to why collaboration is so essential and useful to law firms and lawyers. Let’s examine a few of these, and how you may overcome them within your own firms or law firm networks to achieve better collaborative results.
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Today, I’m bringing you a guest post on a topic near and dear to my heart – collaboration. Gareth Stephenson, of Top3Legal has a different take on it, from his experience, which may be useful as you engage further in your own collaborative efforts.

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In-house counsel are increasingly recognising the benefits of collaboration – this occurs within their teams, with counsel at other companies and also with their law firms.
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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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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. 
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If you haven’t had the opportunity to read retired soccer player, Abby Wambach’s remarks to the graduates of Barnard College, it’s worth taking a few minutes to give them a read. Wambach’s speech, and the discussion that we recently had at our Annual Conference with facilitator Wendy Merrill of Strategy Horse, which incorporated the concept of finding your “why?” are both things that have resonated deeply with me over the last few months. The idea of finding your “why?” focuses on digging down into the reason behind everything that you do, so that you give a purpose to it – it will be the driving force behind why your clients hire you, why you practice law, why other lawyers want to join your firm, and why young lawyers want to come into and stay with your practice.

A network is no different – it’s more than just a directory of names. It’s a living, breathing organism, and the thing that keeps people coming back to it and investing their time and energy into it is the why. Our “why” is defined by three guiding principles: 
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Photo by Kris Van de Sande
Photo by Kris Van de Sande

Lawyers and law firms often think of content marketing as a solo activity. While you may have a strategy that is firm or practice-wide, in general, you’re thinking of the producers of the content for that strategy as individuals.

But what about co-creating content?

I read a great piece today on 9 Free Tools to Co-Create Content, which not only included some great resources, but also some excellent inspiration on this Two for Tuesdays for ways we can be better content collaborators.

Before we get into the HOW, let’s talk about the WHY.

The article’s author, Ann Smarty, tells us that co-creating content can help you to achieve the following goals:

  • Build relationships with niche influencers (with whom you co-create content)
  • Create more diverse and in-depth content (easier to find more angles and discover more marketing channels)
  • Produce more content (collaboration improves your productivity)
  • Build more exposure (co-writers and co-editors more willing to promote the piece since they participated)”


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