5 Things Legal Teams Can Do To Foster a More Collaborative Work Environment (an Interview with Monica Zent, founder of Foxwordy & ZentLaw)
*Today's blog is from a recent interview I conducted with Monica Zent, an experienced entrepreneur, investor, businesswoman, and trusted legal advisor to the world’s largest brands. Her most recent venture is as Founder & CEO of Foxwordy, the private collaboration network for lawyers. She is also the Founder of ZentLaw, one of the leading alternative law firms on the West Coast.
Mike Hamilton: In almost every business profession, collaboration plays a tremendous role in accomplishing tasks and creating the best possible outcome. Based on my experience, it seems like collaboration isn't a strong suit for legal teams, especially now that they must work with IT professionals on e-discovery matters. Have you been seeing the same? If so, why do you think this is the case?
Monica Zent: Lawyers are naturally great collaborators. In my over 20 years in the law, I consistently found collaboration to be essential to good lawyering. However, most lawyers have historically relied on random face-to-face interactions, phone calls or emails to collaborate. This observation led me to recognize that there was a need for a solution that would make collaboration easy, efficient and tech-driven, and that was the genesis of launching Foxwordy. Foxwordy brings social cloud collaboration to the entire legal market, allowing lawyers to collaborate with colleagues within and outside of their organizations.
MH: What is the biggest collaboration mistake that you see legal teams make?
MZ: The biggest collaboration mistake I see legal teams making is thinking they are collaborating when in actuality they are not. Collaboration is not just adding another person to an email thread, or referring a client to a law firm partner to provide an additional service. It’s really about engaging with colleagues to get work done more effectively and efficiently to enhance your knowledge and increase productivity.
MH: Change, especially in the legal field, is hard. For example, e-discovery takes place in almost every case, but still judges think attorneys generally are not e-discovery competent. How do you get legal teams to change their habits and the way they work to work more collaboratively? Who needs to be the driver of that change?
MZ: I wouldn’t say it’s about changing lawyers’ habits. Rather, it is about giving them tools to facilitate their natural inclinations towards collaboration, and make it easy for them to engage in effective, efficient collaboration. We are leading that effort with Foxwordy’s collaboration platform. People in the industry are recognizing that technology is a great facilitator for what they are trying to accomplish in terms of collaboration and its role in achieving overall business objectives. Change in the legal industry is facilitated by increasing lawyers’ competence with technology. As an e-discovery provider, you can provide opportunities for lawyers to acquire this knowledge.
MH: How have you helped legal teams increase collaboration within their own departments and also with other business units (i.e. IT, HR) and external entities (i.e. law firms, legal service providers)?
MZ: That’s why I created Foxwordy, which provides a secure cloud-based collaboration solution that allows lawyers to collaborate with colleagues within and outside of their organizations. Increasing collaboration among lawyers and others in their organization requires a combination of people, process and technology.
MH: What are some of the biggest benefits you've seen legal teams incur by leveraging collaboration more effectively?
MZ: There are many tangible benefits derived from collaboration, including saving time, increasing employee morale, building stronger relationships with colleagues and conserving budgets and resources. Engaging in knowledge-sharing increases one’s own scope of knowledge. There’s greater engagement with colleagues, and overall a greater sense of satisfaction.
MH: For legal teams who want to be more efficient, reduce legal costs and create innovative legal solutions, what 5 things do legal teams need to start doing right now to foster a more collaborative work environment?
MZ: It’s about people, process and technology.
- Ensure you have a culture of collaboration, including implementing mentoring programs, creating cross-functional teams so people in relevant practice areas are actually talking to one another.
- Build the process necessary for your team to collaborate effectively. Ensure that you communicate these new processes to your team.
- Technology is a great facilitator. Implement Foxwordy and other great legal technology solutions to ensure you are taking advantage of the technology that is out there.
- Evaluate your team to ensure you have the right people who are collaborative in nature.
- Review any data and metrics to ensure there is measurement around your collaboration efforts and your use of technology to facilitate those efforts.