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Why It Pays To Collaborate With Your Colleagues

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After spending vast sums to build and buy stables of thoroughbreds and extend their geographic reach and practice breadth, today’s law firms have come to a sobering conclusion: Accumulating stars is no longer enough. All that talent cannot be harnessed for competitive advantage or profit growth unless they find a way to get partners to collaborate. Specifically, lawyers with highly specialized expertise must work across silos to tackle clients’ most sophisticated problems.

When firms get collaboration right—that is, when they do complex work for clients that spans practices and offices within the firm—they earn higher margins, inspire greater client loyalty, gain access to more lucrative clients, and attract more cutting-edge work. Sharing work actually boosts the practices of individual partners, too—even rainmakers.

Collaboration is the intellectual property lawyer who identifies an opportunity to work with regulatory, real estate and tax lawyers on a retail client’s mobile commerce concerns. Don’t confuse it with cross-selling. Firm leaders often push partners to “cross-sell,” but lawyers have surely heard what general counsel uniformly report to me: Clients hate to be cross-sold. They hate when their lawyer who handles one domain offers introductions to other partners in other narrow domains: the tax lawyer who proposes his real estate colleague to do strictly real estate work. It’s the legal equivalent of “Do you want fries with that?” Instead, what clients want is for their lawyers to understand their issues deeply enough to offer sophisticated advice and to line up the right legal team to deliver it.[…]