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Smart collaboration - what is it?

‘In a crisis, it’s essential to bring diverse people together’ Dr Heidi Gardner

As the Covid 19 pandemic continues, more and more in-house legal teams are grappling with the challenges of diversity and inclusion and the day-to-day mechanics of collaboration.

Which is why RPC and CLL joined forces to host the webinar, ‘Smart Collaboration: How in-house and external counsel add value by teaming through the crisis,’ on 3 June. The 45-minute online event was introduced by Sam Tate, a Partner at RPC specialising in complex cross-border investigations and white-collar crime prevention programs.

Following on from April’s oversubscribed ‘Optimize collaboration through remote working’ and again presented by Dr Heidi Gardner, Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession, this event focused on in-house legal teams.

Heidi summed up the challenges many in-house legal functions are dealing with by setting out the common characteristics of teams and the problems they face:

  • Teams typically comprise people who are highly specialised with necessarily narrow, yet deep expertise and focus; while
  • Problems are invariably Volatile, Uncertain in their trajectory and outcome, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA).

Only by bringing specialists together and integrating their expertise can the in-house legal team close the gap between these two contradictory traits.

Heidi illustrated the point by revealing the chink in many a Grandmaster chess champion’s seemingly invincible mental armour. While their capacity to visualise and interpret the upshot of multiple permutations (pattern recognition) is the stuff of mental gymnasts, this function evaporates in a crisis. Faced with acute time pressures and a set of completely novel configurations, the world-beater will make the fundamental errors of a novice.

They need diversity of perspective to re-frame the way they look at the problem.

To achieve this Heidi presented and expanded on the Four Vectors of Smart Collaboration:

  • Within legal – by rallying around strategic priorities and making and communicating decisions about what to de-prioritise;
  • With the C-suite and the board – getting involved as early as possible in organisation-wide strategic discussions;
  • Across functions – by building a strong network across the organisation and knowing when to activate relationships; and
  • Externally – by working with your wider network of external law firms, regulators, trade associations and supply chains to identify opportunities to shape the future and improve workplace well-being.

Throughout the webinar, Sam encouraged attendees to send their questions in, a selection of which he put to Heidi to conclude an informative and engaging 45 minutes.