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    January 21st, 2013

    ♫ Boy, the way Glen Miller played.
    Songs that made the Hit Parade.
    Guys like us, we had it made.
    Those were the days!…♫

    – Music and Lyrics by Charles Stouce and Lee Adams
    and recorded by Archie Bunker.

     

    collaborate

     

    One of the big changes in the legal profession has been the switch to the lawyer as collaborator: with their colleagues, with their staff and not the least, with their clients. Part of this is due to the work of Thomas Friedman and his “The World is Flat” philosophy. Part of it is due to the fact that the world has changed and clients have insisted on becoming equals with their advisors. Not only do clients want to be kept advised on what is happening with their cases, they want to be involved with the details of their cases – discussing strategy, options and not the least, potential cost-impacts.

    Collaboration places new demands on lawyers. In my view, this goes beyond just seeking instructions – which is the most basic level of collaboration. When you seek instructions, you and the client are speaking from each person’s separate goals and values…in order to reach a common path of how to proceed. But there are much more rewarding, and deeper, ways to collaborate. In a true collaborative environment, there is a deep, continued and shared dialogue over proposed outcomes, options and impacts. In such an environment, each party seeks to build and enhance meaningful and beneficial long-term relationships. Each party has a commitment to common and shared goals that strive to go beyond the current engagement. There is also shared leadership, a sense of community, a commitment of resources and an understanding of each party’s overarching goals. There are shared responsibilities and the development of an environment of underlying mutual understanding and trust. Needless to say, all parties have to view collaboration as being to their mutual benefit. Since lawyers have not been traditionally viewed as being high on the trustworthy scale compared to other professions (rightly or not), I believe we have much to gain by adopting a collaborative perspective.

    Important characteristics of a positive collaborative environment would include having frequent and open communication, preferably within a workspace that encourages and facilitates this process.

    Collaboration is facilitated by structure: form follows function. The new online collaborative environments are receiving positive attention as they support the structure of collaboration. Visit any of these online spaces and you can see contact information, timelines, communications, documents, images, graphics and videos. Documents can be marked up, changed and commented on by all parties. Notes can be left and responded to. Parties are participating in a continuing multi-dimensional dialogue that is facilitated by the collaborative spaces. These spaces go far beyond what was possible using phone calls, emails and correspondence.

    For one, they allow communication to take place among team members, either individually, in subgroups or among the whole. The stream of communication is gathered in one place, preserving the sense that the work is a group project. Secondly, they enhance the sense of team by allowing both synchronous and asynchronous communications. Thirdly, knowledge transfer and sharing of information are two characteristics of these spaces. Examples of such knowledge sharing in collaborative spaces are Wikipedia and group blogs such as www.slaw.ca. They also encourage new ways of solving problems by combining project management with crowd-sourcing and social media attributes.

    Rather than looking back wistfully and longing for the ways and the days of the past, I believe we can – and should – embrace these new spaces to craft better relationships with our clients. One day we too will look back at these emerging times and say: guys and gals like us, we had it made – those were the days!

    This article originally appeared in the Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia branch’s publication BarTalk.

    This entry was posted on Monday, January 21st, 2013 at 4:00 am and is filed under Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Tips, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

    4 Responses to “Collaboration Tools for Lawyers”
    1. Tom Russo Says:

      David…excellent post. I so strongly agree that creating a collaborative process between attorney and client that allows for common data positions, calendars, and documents…will promote a trusted partner position between the parties. This is what clients are looking for today and those firms that are providing it seem to be in the best place for long term relationship. Thanks for the post. Tom

    2. family law Toronto Says:

      Having an open communication within a work space assumes true significance. This is exactly where hiring the services of family law Toronto can assume importance.

    3. Greg Lafontaine Says:

      Thanks for the info. Though many of these would be useful for those who are not lawyers either.

    4. Josaphine David Says:

      In theory collaboration can pay big dividends in terms of increased employee productivity; however, an important point missing here is that these tools need to be adopted in order to be useful, which means they need to be easy to use.. It should also be taken from the customer’s point of view. What are they trying to do? Small Law firms like ours are trying gain an edge on competition. We don’t need to “collaborate internally” with software (just go walk 10 feet down the hall…). Big corporations needs SW for that. What small law firms DO need is to “collaborate externally” with clients, partners, suppliers… It’s do or die on cash flow. And driving stronger relationships with clients through collaboration tools is a great focus. But all those features mentioned above matter nill if customers don’t adopt them because they’re too confusing. I’ve traveled a long road with SharePoint and Jive. You want to waste a lot of money and scare and frustrate your customers? The part all these software DON’T get is that all the features (file sharing, proj mgt, wiki, etc) are very much commoditized. First it has to be rock solid secure. Then must be easy, as in Facebook easy. Because otherwise you’re going to spend a whole bunch of time and money on complicated interface that customer won’t use. We have a whole lot scars in this area, but saw the importance of “customer engagement”. We now use Centroy. It’s dead simple, yet has all the fancy features boiled down like Apple. I’m not at all tied to these guys. Just a satified customer. Check them out. http://centroy.com

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