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Ten more ways to knit up the raveled sleeve of a spread-out legal department

If your legal team has offices strung out from Albania to Zimbabwe, you probably wish there were more cohesion, collegiality, and collective culture (See my post of Jan. 16, 2009: physically decentralized law departments with 13 references.).

To the dozen techniques I have discussed in previous posts to share a feeling of being one legal department, let me add ten more (See my post of March 1, 2009: creating a one-department culture with 7 posts and 5 metaposts; and March 26, 2009: four more ideas about unification efforts.).

1. Centers of Excellence and communities of interest. Create pools of experience here and there and lawyers will be linked through reaching out to them (See my post of July 21, 2005: brokering knowledge; July 25, 2005: knowledge management and communities of practice; Sept. 10, 2005: COE, center of excellence; March 13, 2007: Lucent Technologies and communities of practice; Feb. 4, 2008: centers of excellence or expertise at GC; and May 7, 2008: seven terms for specialists in legal departments.).

2. Centralize reporting of all practicing lawyers (See my post of Aug. 5, 2008: decentralized reporting with 7 references.). Having one boss helps gel a legal team.

3. Break down silos of practice groups. For example, prepare one guideline for outside counsel to cover the entire department; create a shared list of preferred counsel; choose a single relationship partner at each major law firm; do collective Requests for Proposal.

4. Establish regional general counsel (See my post of Dec. 15, 2009: regional inside counsel with 8 references.). They will pull together the lawyers in their part of the world and carry messages back from the rest of the department.

5. Promote annual objectives for individuals that include efforts to unite the department. People who need to buy into the idea of collective benefit from a shared sense of purpose and practice should be asked to come up with ideas to help make possible that advantage.

6. Share efforts on initiatives such as pro bono, knowledge management, social events. Those who dream together scheme together.

7. Put on project teams a mix of members from different offices. Whatever lets people get to know each other helps to keep the melting pot melting (See my post of Feb. 1, 2009: project teams of law departments with 39 references and 4 metaposts.).

8. Move meetings of the senior legal team around among the various offices. One general counsel I have worked with takes care to visit different offices for the periodic meetings of his senior leadership group.

9. Learn from morale and values surveys. You may be able to spot cross-office differences in values and attitudes from the results and address those differences (See my post of July 13, 2008: employee morale with 15 references.).

10. Provide continuing legal or professional training across the department (See my post of May 25, 2008: CLE with 30 references.).

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