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Be Selfish! Break Down a Silo—or At Least Start Melting One Down a Bit

By Christiane Matuch posted 07-27-2021 13:37


Co-Authored by Christiane Matuch, Innovation Project Manager, Greenberg Traurig and Michael Ertel, Practice Innovation & Knowledge Attorney, Paul Hastings LLP.

Silos in the Delivery of Legal Services

When groups of people or departments with varying expertise need to respond uniformly to customers, silos can get in the way and lead to a miserable customer experience.

When we discuss breaking down silos, what we really mean is fostering collaboration.

Collaboration is the process where two or more people, entities, or organizations work together to achieve a goal. Sounds simple, but it is not! Collaboration requires hard work—every day! That work includes coordinating the efforts of employees and different departments to provide unified services to clients. In a law firm that means this can be several different departments or practice groups working together to create an enjoyable and unified customer experience.

When departments collaborate, work becomes more efficient, purposeful, and result driven. Collaboration does not require siting in a room together, in fact, it is often done without face-to-face interaction. Here are two collaboration scenarios where nobody will be in the same room together.

Scenario 1

A relationship attorney in Labor & Employment is approached by an existing client regarding a new engagement related to Intellectual Property, a totally different area of law. The attorney would like to answer the client and explain the firm’s expertise in that area but has no idea where to start. The attorney emails the head of that department, who emails the head marketing liaison, who searches the document management system for relevant materials.

Sound like collaboration? It is not. A collaborative approach could include a system where every attorney adds their expertise into a database or collaboration platform that can be queried in minutes. The non-collaborative process could easily take a day or two, whereas the collaborative process would take less than an hour. The collaborative process results from everyone sharing their expertise in the same format. No silos, just seamless sharing of information.

 Scenario 2

An attorney amends a client document every week, making changes with information that comes from an associate, the client’s marketing department, and the client’s General Counsel’s office. Every week the attorney emails the document to the associate, who adds information and then emails it to the client, who adds information and emails it back to the attorney’s assistant who runs a comparison to show the changes made. Unfortunately, the client has a different version of the operating and document system and every time the client emails the document back, the formatting needs to be repaired and takes about an hour.

Sound like collaboration? It is many people working on the same task, but it is not collaboration. This ordeal could be solved with a co-authoring or collaboration platform. All participants can log in and work on the same document when it fits their schedule, or they can even meet online once a week to implement the necessary changes together. This collaboration would reduce the risks of losing work product, transferring documents to the wrong person, and inclusion of errors in the drafting process. Not to mention the time saved.


Technology can be a great catalyst for collaboration. Especially in this post-COVID world, online collaboration is often the key to breaking silos resulting in free knowledge and expertise sharing. What was often a siloed approach can be unified and streamlined and result in a great customer journey. Remember, technology alone does not solve problems.  It takes people to agree to collaborate, share their knowledge, and achieve the best client outcomes together.

#Knowledge Management and Search