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Law department silos in structure and operations

Many law departments operate to some degree as a loose confederacy of silos (See my post of March 1, 2007 on the risks of compartmentalized legal practices.). Groups of lawyers within silos [vertical reporting lines] burrow on with little sharing of knowledge or resources between them and other silos. Between the litigation group and the business groups there is little cooperation or sharing of knowledge. The IP lawyers warily eye the rest of the department (See my post of Dec. 31, 2007 on three such tensions.). Or the UK legal team barely knows its compatriots across the Atlantic. The siloed lawyers practice independently of each other.

MIT Sloan Mgt. Rev., Vol. 49, Winter 2007 at 13, discusses research about isolated subsidiaries that don’t share information with other subsidiaries. The authors conclude: “Subsidiaries that didn’t exchange knowledge tended to perform worse than those that did.” Analogously, isolated legal practices lose out when they don’t share knowledge and work product (See my post of July 25, 2007 on why Schering-Plough dislikes silos.).

Remedies exist for silo separation (See my posts of March 22, 2006 about some ways to address fiefdoms; March 22, 2006 on solutions to silos; Jan. 30, 2006 on cross-functional teams at Independence Blue Cross; and March 28, 2006 about PPG’s efforts to break down silos.).

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