03 March 2015

Rainmakers resist the rewards of collaboration

High-earning lone wolf lawyers might be able to increase their earnings by collaborating with colleagues and doing more on cross-selling but research published in the Harvard Business Review says that they struggle to put the common good first.

By Neasa MacErlean

The research was carried out among six global law, accounting and consulting firms by Heidi Gardner, a law lecturer at Harvard Law School. She says that when partners collaborate 'firms earn higher margins, inspire greater client loyalty, and gain a competitive edge'. However, the article in which she summarises her findings is called 'when senior managers won't collaborate'. This is partly because 'the financial benefits of collaboration accrue slowly, and other advantages are hard to quantify' and ' many partners are hard-pressed to spend time and energy on cross-specialty ventures when they could be building their own practices instead'. 

Irreplaceable

One general counsel is quoted in the research explaining why an effective team in a law firm is far more attractive than dealing with individual competent lawyers. The GC, who works for a Fortune 100 company, said: 'I could find a decent tax lawyer in most firms. But when a tax lawyer successfully teamed up with an intellectual property lawyer, a regulatory lawyer, and ultimately a litigator to handle my thorniest patent issues, I knew I could never replace that whole team in another firm.'

Ingrained attitudes

Despite the attractions of collaboration for both the law firms and their clients, the shorter term disadvantages for the rainmakers are large, according to The Financial Times which says that ' ingrained attitudes are hard to break'. 

Sources: Harvard Business Review and Financial Times

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