How to Foster Collaboration in Law Firms While Working Remotely

November 13, 2020  |  Legal Technology

remote collaboration in law firms with video chat

Law firm collaboration has not always been easy or natural for lawyers. However, in the throes of our new normal, attorneys find themselves forced to work remotely and embrace new technologies designed to break down age-old silos in their practices.

Knowing how to foster collaboration in law firms is critical for successfully managing your firm. Clients expect their attorneys to address increasingly complex issues that cross areas of expertise and jurisdictions. Continuing to adhere to monolithic models and approaches will result in frustrated and unsatisfied clients, and ultimately less revenue.

Better collaboration = More business

An Acritas analysis shows that law firm collaboration results in significant gains. To wit:

  • When more than 5 offices are used, there’s a 33% increase in share of the client’s legal spend
  • 66 % of clients use only one or two office locations of their most-used law firm
  • A lack of consistency hurts law firms, with 61% of clients saying firms underperform when it comes to consistency
  • Those firms that are consistent get more business. 2X as many clients will recommend a firm with strong consistency across both offices and practices

So, why don’t attorneys collaborate more, especially given the clear financial benefits to their firms? They often don’t have the underlying legal technology to do so easily. However, today’s solutions address law firm collaboration challenges by fostering and coordinating an effective, remote teamwork environment. 

How legal technology addresses collaboration challenges in law firms

Legal technology provides excellent options for law firms to improve their communication and collaboration both easily and effectively. Legal practice management (LPM) tools provide law firms with the means to meet client demands and improve efficiency. When legal practice management software is leveraged, law firms can address important logistical challenges that have historically arisen during remote collaboration, including:

  • Video and audio conferencing
  • Real-time document editing
  • Case and client organization
  • Real-time workflow management
  • Accurate time and billing 

Infographic: Why Remote Legal Firms are the New Normal

Additional challenges of law firm collaboration

For many lawyers, billable hours rule and being able to bring in business equates to more value. This often leads attorneys and their law firms to reinforce a siloed, specialized approach. This trend has grown in recent decades as practice specialization has been encouraged, both in professional firms and among in-house counsel units.

Heidi Gardner from Harvard has done extensive research into the value of collaboration. She cites the following as the main stumbling blocks to effective and institutionalized law firm collaboration:

  • Long-term ROI. The gains from collaboration may take a while to be realized. New revenues may not emerge for an additional year or two, while non billable expenses creep up in the short term.
  • Lack of Trust. Involving a new partner or associate in work with a well-established and lucrative client introduces risk. Relational and competency-based trust are both necessary to cut down on the risks and foster collaboration
  • Lack of Knowledge. The myopic approach to practicing law often means partners are unaware of the full scope of capabilities right under their noses. As firms grow larger, keeping track of firm competencies becomes increasingly difficult
  • Inefficiency. Finding the right partners internally can be a challenge. You need to find the complementary skill set in someone who has the time and interest to collaborate
  • Politics. Even after the right partner is identified and committed, then what? Usually there’s a clear hierarchy and goals when it comes to forming legal work teams. Since collaboration often occurs among peers, it can be unclear who takes the lead among partners with their own senses of power and prestige
  • Rock Stars. Firms that rely on star power can find collaborations difficult, especially with those ingrained in individualized rain-making
  • Pressure to Perform. Higher stakes means that many attorneys are risk-averse, wanting the sure thing as opposed to the unknown

No matter the factors challenging collaboration, smart, forward-thinking firm leaders understand the value of forging ahead.

Why law firm collaboration is important to clients

So, why do clients want more collaboration among their law firms? Because of the complex and increasingly global nature of our legal system.

Law firm clients today are facing increasingly complicated legal issues around regulation, technology, tax, finances, human resources and environmental impact. These problems are not siloed, meaning they transcend traditional law firm practice areas. They cross jurisdictions, territories, and countries.

At the same time that law firms have become more specialized, their clients’ needs have become more complex, cross-jurisdictional, cross-specialty, and cross-practice.

“Together these two trends—increased specialization and a growing complexity in client issues—create a demand for lawyers who are not only technical experts in their own particular domain but also lawyers who can collaborate with others throughout the firm, and often around the world, to solve multifaceted problems,” notes Gardner

At AbacusNext, our collaborative legal practice management tools are purpose-built for today’s remote, modern law firm. They allow for collaboration across practices, jurisdictions, and time zones, giving your firm the ability to be more client focused. And the more client focused your firm is, the more profitable it will become.

“Simply put, the more practices that are involved in servicing a client, the greater the annual average revenue that client generates,” Gardner writes.

If you have questions on how to up-level your firm and promote collaboration, give us a call at (800) 726-3339. We’ll find you the legal practice management solution necessary to succeed in today’s highly complex legal marketplace. 

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