Legal Practice

Teamwork and Collaboration

The growing complexity of legal work requires lawyers to collaborate across expertise and organizational boundaries. The Center’s research shows that when lawyers do work across specialties, it benefits individual lawyers, law firms, clients, and society.  But there are many barriers to collaboration, particularly across organizational boundaries.

Led by CLP Distinguished Fellow Heidi Gardner ([email protected]), the Center is engaged in several projects designed to help lawyers overcome these barriers and to teach lawyers how to collaborate and work effectively in teams beginning in law school and extending throughout their careers. As one example, Dr. Gardner’s research asks,“Why is it often so difficult to get law partners to collaborate and cross-sell?” What are the benefits to the partner(s)? What are the benefits to the firm? To the client? How can firm leaders foster more productive and effective collaboration? To help answer these questions, Dr. Gardner has conducted an empirical analysis of data including timesheets and financial records of two global law firms (over a ten-year period) and has interviewed 100’s of top legal professionals. Her results point to the power of collaboration – in both the best and worst of times.

NEW: “Implementing Smart Collaboration” Paper Series

This white paper series lays out a research-based, practical approach for law firms to turn their collaboration strategy into a living, breathing part of daily life.  Given most firms’ culture of high autonomy and decentralization, leaders need to drive it both from the top-down and bottom-up.  Implementing Smart Collaboration requires a clear-eyed view of the current state of collaboration, and then targeted approaches to strategy implementation.

 Download Part I – Building the Case for Change

  • In this paper, Part 1 of the series, Heidi K. Gardner, PhD and Ivan Matviak outline the diagnostic phase which helps identify current collaboration barriers and bright-spots, and provides guide-posts for future areas of focus.  Galvanizing the organization around collaboration requires a bottom-up ground swell of support.

Download Part 2 – Optimizing Individuals’ and Leaders’ Collaborative Behaviors

  • Part 2 of this series shows how to equip lawyers (and potentially others in the firm) with the capabilities to turn their natural ways of working into strengths that improve collaboration.  Part 2 also shows how to improve leaders’ understanding of their group dynamics so that they are better able to manage, direct, and motivate their teams (such as practice groups or key account teams).

* JUST IN* Download Part 3 – Identifying and Prioritizing Client Opportunities

  • In Part 3 of this series, we discuss tech-enabled ways to analyze, identify and prioritize collaborative growth opportunities, along with ways to create accountability for execution. Even with the right targets, research shows that many partners lack the skills and confidence to pursue complex client opportunities which require cross-silo collaboration.

Download Part 4 – To Be Released

  • Part 4 of the series outlines seven principles for effective capability development, shows how to calculate the return on investment for programs, and provides a case study on one kind of BD capabilities program that generates 10x ROI.


Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos

Heidi K. Gardner, PhD

Harvard Business Review Publishing, 2016

Not all collaboration is smart. Make sure you do it right. Professional service firms face a serious challenge. Their clients increasingly need them to solve complex problems–everything from regulatory compliance to cybersecurity, the kinds of problems that only teams of multidisciplinary experts can tackle. Yet most firms have carved up their highly specialized, professional experts into narrowly defined practice areas, and collaborating across these silos is often messy, risky, and expensive. Unless you know why you’re collaborating and how to do it effectively, it may not be smart at all. That’s especially true for partners who have built their reputations and client rosters independently, not by working with peers. In “Smart Collaboration,” Heidi K. Gardner shows that firms earn higher margins, inspire greater client loyalty, attract and retain the best talent, and gain a competitive edge when specialists collaborate across functional boundaries. Gardner, a former McKinsey consultant and Harvard Business School professor now lecturing at Harvard Law School, has spent over a decade conducting in-depth studies of numerous global professional service firms. Her research with clients and the empirical results of her studies demonstrate clearly and convincingly that collaboration pays, for both professionals and their firms. But Gardner also offers powerful prescriptions for how leaders can foster collaboration, move to higher-margin work, increase client satisfaction, improve lateral hiring, decrease enterprise risk, engage workers to contribute their utmost, break down silos, and boost their bottom line. With case studies and real-world insights, “Smart Collaboration” delivers an authoritative case for the value of collaboration to today’s professionals, their firms, and their clients and shows you exactly how to achieve it.


A joint collaboration between leading thinkers from multiple sides of the legal profession, including Professor David B. Wilkins (Harvard Law School), Mr. Benjamin Heineman, Jr. (CLP Distinguished Senior Fellow and former General Counsel of General Electric) and Mr. William Lee (Partner, WilmerHale), the project lays out a vision of lawyers as professionals and citizens in the 21st century.

The essay they offer presents a practical vision of the responsibilities of lawyers as both professionals and as citizens at the beginning of the 21st century. Specifically, we seek to define and give content to four ethical responsibilities that we believe are of signal importance to lawyers in their fundamental roles as expert technicians, wise counselors, and effective leaders: responsibilities to their clients and stakeholders; responsibilities to the legal system; responsibilities to their institutions; and responsibilities to society at large. Our fundamental point is that the ethical dimensions of lawyering for this era must be given equal attention to—and must be highlighted and integrated with—the significant economic, political, and cultural changes affecting major legal institutions and the people and institutions lawyers serve.

Download Lawyers as Professionals and as Citizens


Commentary from Judith Areen, Georgetown University Law Center and Executive Vice President for Law Affairs for Georgetown University

Commentary from Judith Areen, Georgetown University Law Center and Executive Vice President for Law Affairs for Georgetown University

Commentary from Steve Rodgers, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Intel Corporation

Commentary from Steve Rodgers, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Intel Corporation

Commentary from William C. Hubbard, President of the American Bar Association

Commentary from William C. Hubbard, President of the American Bar Association

Commentary from Roger Meltzer, Global Co-Chairman, DLA Piper LLP

Commentary from Roger Meltzer, Global Co-Chairman,

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The Honorable Chief
Judge Pattie B. Saris,
U.S. District Court,
District of Massachusetts



Rachel F. Moran Dean and Michael J. Connell Distinguished Professor of Law UCLA School of Law

Rachel F. Moran
Dean and Michael J. Connell Distinguished Professor of Law
UCLA School of Law



Canadian Lawyer Magazine (In-House Column), Dec. 29, 2014

Read coverage here

HLS Program on Corporate Governance and HKS, Nov. 25, 2014

Bloomberg, Nov. 24, 2014

Read the article here

Corporate Counsel, Nov. 20, 2014

Read the article here

CLP/WilmerHale Press Release, Nov. 20, 2014

Read press release here


Keynote Address and Response(s)

Keynote address by the Honorable Judge Jed S. Rakoff  – read here

Keynote response by ABA President William Hubbard – read here

News Coverage

Bloomberg BNA – April 10, 2015

Read coverage here


Anti-Bribery & Corruption

In November 2013 CLP convened a group of high-level corporate counsel to discuss their role in shaping anti-bribery and corruption programs around the world. In a closed-door session held under Chatham House rules, 15 senior corporate counsel from some of the biggest companies in the U.S. and from around the world met at HLS to discuss four areas of interest regarding anti-bribery and corruption issues:

How general counsel of multinational corporations can promote good corporate governance and defend the rule of law while doing business around the world, including in emerging economies?

What general counsel of multinational corporations should take into account as other countries implement anti-bribery and corruption laws or similar regulations, particularly in emerging economies?

What are multinational corporations and their general counsel currently doing in the BRIC countries to comply with current anti-bribery and corruption laws and regulations?

What policies or regulatory procedures – domestic or cross-border – might U.S. agencies consider to provide greater clarity and predictability to multinational corporations doing business in emerging economies, while preserving an optimal mix of good governance, civil liberties and the rule of law?

The group expects to convene another roundtable during the next academic year. Talks are ongoing to produce a white paper of best practices

To learn more this project, email Bryon Fong.