The New How: Smart Collaboration

To support our clients and contacts in the in-house legal community, GCs and other business leaders, Shoosmiths hosted a webinar on 2 July 2020 focusing on the role of Smart Collaboration in #TheNewHow


As the saying goes “when the wind blows, some people build walls, while others build windmills". We know that we’re facing a crisis unlike any other, but what’s been illustrated clearly is that a lot of our old assumptions on how we work can be challenged. We can be working smarter, faster, better. We want to emerge from lockdown with something positive to show for it: a new normal better than the old one. We need a new how.

On 2 July we hosted a webinar focusing on the role of Smart Collaboration in #TheNewHow. The webinar was hosted by Stuart Little, Head of Business Advisory at Shoosmiths and the guest speaker was Dr. Heidi Gardner, a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession and Faculty Chair in the school’s executive programmes and author of the recently-published book “Smart Collaboration for In-house Legal Teams”.

Below are our key tips and takeaways.


  • The problems that we face right now are ‘Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambigous’ – the pandemic being a typical example
  • Single-focussed experts are unable to find optimal solutions to the issues that present themselves – it requires collaboration
  • There is an opportunity right now to influence the future – as we look at new post-pandemic ways of working, we can build collaboration into our strategies
  • Collaboration has the proven benefits of increased productivity, innovation and recruiting and retaining talent

Diversity & Inclusion

  • The field of vision gets narrowed in a crisis, this is why diversity in thinking is important
  • A GC/ business leader needs to see problems from different perspectives
  • Diversity in a team can assist here and leads to challenge and questioning which enables you to find the most effective solutions
  • In a crisis we generally check in with people we have chemistry with which often leads to missed opportunities or lack of constructive challenge to our ideas - look outside that circle for real diversity

Boosting smart collaboration within a legal team

  • Generate momentum around strategic priorities
  • Be decisive on where you need to focus your attention and what tasks you can safely delegate or spend less effort on
  • Time pressure is a barrier to collaboration – what can be done to to streamline your activities to give yourself the bandwidth to deal with the strategy?
  • Diversity can come from a mix of lawyers, legal operations personnel and data experts and/or collaboration with other business functions/teams within an organisation
  • Create and foster psychological safety – team members need to know the contribution they make to the business

Boosting smart collaboration with the Board/ Executive committees

  • Insert yourself into strategic discussions as early as possible
  • Don’t underestimate what you know and understand about your business
  • A GC has a 360 degree view of the business – this is a great value add to discussions
  • Be a thought partner or thought leader - the C-suite have indicated this is what they want – lawyers with business acumen
  • To build commercial acumen- get out into the business

Boosting smart collaboration across business functions

  • Actively seek out and build trusting relationships across as many business functions as possible
  • Network and find new people that you can learn from, understand their challenges
  • Avoid legalise – you need to speak the same language!

Boosting smart collaboration externally

  • Use your position to become a force for good
  • There are many opportunities where you can collaborate to make a difference: D&I, access to justice, workplace mental health and well being, the environment, innovation
  • Seize opportunities to work with your external counsel to tackle these issues

For details of our future webinars visit the New How portal on Shoosmiths website.


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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