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Do Lawyers Work Together?

When I think of lawyers, collaboration isn't a word I'd often, if ever, use to describe them. And perhaps my initial reaction is accurate, because as Ron Friedmann points out in this post at Prism Legal, there are plenty of examples of how other professions are fostering collaboration, such as:

  • Smashing The Clock, the Business Week Dec. 11 cover story, explains how Best Buy is moving away from a culture of office “face time” to work anywhere, anytime, as long as the job gets done.
  • Designed For Success in the same BW issue presents awards to several buildings for design excellence; many awards cite new design elements that foster collaboration.
  • Wikis Are Alive and Kicking in the Enterprise in eWeek (11/20/06) reports on the increasing traction of wikis in corporate America, especially at Motorola.

By contrast, lawyers are only starting to delve into the most superficial aids to collaboration, such as making design changes in office layout, as discussed in Office Spots to Meet and Mingle, Legal Times (12/4/06). Friedmann poses this question:

Do lawyers collaborate less than other professionals? I’m not sure how to measure “amount of collaboration.” And maybe it is not so much about “amount” as “type.” Perhaps lawyers collaborate in ways that differ from other professionals. Legal work may more readily sub-divide into discrete tasks with fewer interactions required than in other businesses. Or perhaps the tasks are linearly sequential, meaning more “pass the baton” than real-time collaboration.

I agree with Friedmann. In particular, law school trains students to work alone. It's rare for students to team up on projects for classes. And exams are a solitary affair, even though some students do form study groups (which often disband after the first semester of the first year when the stronger students realize that they're better off keeping their insights to themselves). And in the workplace, it seems to me that lawyers typically work for a senior attorneys rather than with them, thus making collaboration difficult, since you can't collaborate with someone who doesn't regard you on their level. 

What's your view on how lawyer collaboration compares to other professions?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 5, 2006 at 07:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

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