May 2016 Be the Year of Collaboration

“Being a giver is not good for a 100-yard dash, but it’s valuable in a marathon.” – Adam Grant, Give and Take 

In each jurisdiction, the same issues frequently arise, causing counsel to duplicate work. For example, let’s say you are litigating a case where informed consent plays a central role. As competent defence counsel, you research the law on informed consent and draft a corresponding memo on the case law. Down the street, defence counsel on a separate case has the same central issue. They also research the law on informed consent and draft a memo. Both are medical negligence cases with similar facts and parties. Both cases are defended by the same insurer. The result: the insurer pays for the same research to be done on two different cases.

Why should the insurer have to pay twice for work that is inevitably going to be reproduced?

Of course, solicitor-client privilege and litigation privilege prevent the sharing of work. However, this does not mean that large insurance companies and other major clients cannot begin building databases of their own, and perhaps even collaborating with one other in consolidating legal work. These clients could then demand that counsel begin with their templates and improve on it only when need be. This would ensure quality control and avoid the unnecessary cost of paying for duplicate work, especially considering that most cases are not unique and duplication frequently occurs between law firms.

Similarly, collaboration can be accomplished in solicitor type work. For example, banks need to keep up with regulations from all over the world. As a result, banks are constantly paying for legal advice on compliance from a variety of law firms. And in each jurisdiction each law firm is repeating the exact same work. There is no reason that banks cannot share the cost of legal work relating to regulatory compliance. The same regulation applies in each jurisdiction.

I do not think that collaboration will become the norm in 2016. But I do see it becoming more common in the years to come. Cost pressures demand new ways of working. And the Internet enables clients to reduce costs by collaborating with each other. Or, at the very least, it allows big clients to accumulate databases of legal work larger than any one firm could create on their own.

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