Solutions to silos – the separateness of lawyers supporting business units

“We have silos in this law department!” I hear that complaint during most of my projects, and it is always pejorative. “The lawyers supporting the widget group don’t know, let alone help, the lawyers supporting the framzjigy group.” Turf wars, balkanization, empires, fiefdoms, hoarded information – never a kind word.

I recommend assigning lawyers to support specific business units (See my posts of Dec. 21, 2005 on “majors” and “minors;” July 30, 2005 on dual reporting of specialist lawyers; July 31, 2005 on business unit lawyers who have specialist lawyers in their midst; and Feb. 15, 2006 on matrix reporting.). And yet when you do – up pops another silo.

You can’t have it both ways. Lawyers who work for one client group have little inclination to pitch in on behalf of another (See my post of March 5, 2005 on the rarity of altruistic information sharing.).

If substantive legal knowledge needs to be pooled between groups, then consider (a) communities of practice, (2) intranet information exchange, (3) coordinators for work done in certain legal fields, (4) a shared services group, and (5) establishing a specialist in one or more business groups – in effect, a distributed shared service group (See my post of March 17, 2006 on subject matter experts (SMEs).

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