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A Shared Space: How it Fosters Collaboration

by Everlaw


Experts believe that collaboration–or at a minimum, the need to collaborate–will power the legal profession in 2020 and beyond. However, merely working in the same office (or video call) or even on the same team does not guarantee effective collaboration–it must come through a deliberate effort to work together. According to MIT professor Michael Schrage:

“Successful collaborators don’t just work with each other; they work together through a shared space. Shared space — whether physical, virtual, or digital — is where collaborators agree to jointly create, manipulate, iterate, capture, and critique the representations of the reality they seek to discover or design. This holds true for collaboration around products, processes, services, songs, or the exploration of scientific principles. Shared space is the essential means, medium, and mechanism that makes collaboration possible. No shared space? No real collaboration.

James Watson and Francis Crick didn’t do a single experiment on their way to discovering the double helix and winning the Nobel Prize. But the shared space of their helical metal models proved indispensable to their collaborative success. Wilbur and Orville Wright pioneered wind tunnel designs and tests as shared space for flight design. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, and then Jony Ive, relentlessly prototyped digital devices like obsessive perfectionists.”

What is Collaboration?

In the context of the legal profession, Heidi Gardner, Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School and the author of Smart Collaboration, says that true collaboration only happens when “knowledge workers integrate their individual expertise to deliver high-quality outcomes on complex issues.” However, even though practicing law is inherently collaborative, many attorneys are resistant to working with others.

According to Forbes, the economist Joseph Schumpeter wrote in 2017 that innovation lies in “new combinations” of resources that either produce different things or the same things by different methods. When applying Schumpeter’s theory to the legal industry, the new combinations are technology and innovative skill sets, with equal importance and regard given to all legal delivery professionals, not only attorneys.

Creating a Shared Space

Modern technology provides the components necessary to facilitate the shared space solution legal professionals need:

  • Speed. Real-time collaboration is essential, with search results that load instantly, regardless of how complicated the search string or massive the document trove.

  • Convenience. It is safe to say that if it is difficult to collaborate, lawyers will continue to be resistant to it. An efficient shared space makes collaboration convenient by ensuring that it is kept close to the work product at all times.

  • Security. Because of the continual risk for hacks and breaches, the legal industry demands that a collaborative shared space be extremely secure, or team members will not feel comfortable when collaborating.

  • Inclusivity. Legal teams that work toward inclusivity rather than exclusivity are more likely to have a shared mission and therefore be more agile and effective.

  • Breadth. If opportunities to collaborate are few and far between, the shared space isn’t a space at all, but rather a single lane or channel. An actual shared space has the bandwidth for collaboration on all workflows.

For more information on how Everlaw can help facilitate collaboration in your law firm or legal department, download our white paper, “Breaking Down Silos: Increased Collaboration in the Face of Growing Complexity” today.