There is a very social side to law practice performance. Here’s how you can start developing your networks and your ability to collaborate in them to find new growth for your law practice and career.

The most effective people create and then tap into their large, diversified networks for help when they need it. It’s how they get their work done. Develop your networks for collaboration before you need them. Here’s how:
  1. Spend time meeting people and looking for common ground. You may have similar roles, experiences, backgrounds, or interests. Relationships that last and can be called upon for assistance have a foundation that goes beyond transactional. These relationships are more than a series of exchanges of benefits.
  2. Develop and cultivate relationships over time.  The foundation of these relationships is trust and trust takes time to develop.  Trust happens when people make promises and then follow through.  Trust develops after repeatedly interacting with people and staying top of mind. If someone reaches out to you, make it a policy to respond quickly – within 24-48 hours, if possible. You’ll need to call, email, and text people that aren’t nearby to maintain the relationship and build trust.
  3. Share information. If you have information that may be of value to someone in your network, share it.  Don’t wait until you are asked.
If you have your networks in place, the time will come when you need them.

Think of it this way: Are you finding that as much as you would rather not rely on others to get the work done, you don’t have enough time or all the answers? Has your firm recently expanded with more people joining your workforce?

The only way to create new, tangible value for your firm is often through collaboration. Growth and collaboration means learning to balance your identity and needs while becoming part of a larger organization’s identity and contributing to its needs. You need to manage dynamic relationships continuously to grow effectively through collaboration.

Collaboration is both a communication skill and an orientation to conflict. In groups and organizations, conflict is when what you want differs from what your coworker wants. The difference can seem small to you and significant to the other person.

For example, when you need information you think someone else has access to, providing it to you may interfere with that person’s time and ability to get their work done. If you are peers and you come across as directive, it can seem like you’re trying to use position power that you don’t have.

What’s your first inclination in a conflict situation? Many lawyers immediately clarify their position and defend it. In fact, this competitive orientation to conflict is often part of the culture of law firms. It has its place; however, it also may be a barrier to getting the best results in the workplace, as opposed to the courtroom.

Contrastingly, collaboration is often necessary to achieve a common purpose, like your firm’s effective and efficient performance. The aim of collaboration is to find solutions to problems by addressing barriers and openly sharing ideas and evaluating possible solutions.

Collaboration skills are incredibly valuable. Like anything of deep value, these skills aren’t easy to develop. They depend on your resilience and desire to learn new things and learning, requires commitment and practice. Be prepared to collaborate with others. Here’s how:
  1. Engage others in the decisions that will affect them. People are more likely to support a decision that they have helped make.
  2. Listen and understand the perspective of others. What do others’ want, need, expect, and prefer? What are they interested in and concerned about? Ask open-end questions to get this information. Demonstrate your understanding by summarizing what they have said and asking if you hear them correctly.
  3. Before you ask for something, be clear about what you want. What are your goals? What do you need to achieve them? How do your goals relate to the goals you and others share? Think before you ask.
It’s difficult to develop a network and collaborate with people without having self-awareness of how you react to difficult and stressful situations. Using feedback and self-reflection, you can gain an awareness of your default tendencies. Increase your self-awareness by seeking out feedback, reflecting on your intentions and how well the outcomes of your efforts match those intentions, and looking for the new information and opportunities for change in your mistakes. Before you go to sleep at night, ask yourself this question: What was one thing I learned in a relationship today?