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January 31, 2014

Clients Struggle with Silos, too.

If there’s anything that kills customer experience, it’s the territory wars inside organizations.

--Jeannie Walters, Founder, 360Connext, Chicago, Illinois

The creation of "silos" inside the largest Western law firms became an issue a few years ago for law partners managing those firms. "Silo" used here of course is not a grain storage device but instead a metaphor for a part or process of a business that operated "in isolation" from other parts. More importantly, the silo metaphor is not confined to the law business. Regardless of any label you give it, "silo mentality" and "silo cultures" down through the years have developed, and will continue to develop, in almost any organization which is growing, multi-specialized and committed to seperately managing each new area of sales. Products, services or a product/service mix could be involved. It doesn't matter. It's the creation of distinct "feifdoms" in the same organization that hurts both the seller and the customer. Feifdoms (a) don't collaborate with each other to serve clients, (b) don't cross-sell together to get new clients or to keep exisitng ones, (c) compete with each other internally for shares of the client's legal spend or (d) all of the foregoing. Both the law firm and the client it serves are compromised, and likely in ways that are measurable.

Over five years ago, Carolyn Elefant, writing at Legal Blog Watch, gave us a memorable short-hand description for cultures at larger law firms where silos inevitably take hold. Elefant was inspired by an article authored by Rees Morrison, a lawyer and well-known consultant to corporate legal departments. Morrison's article, "Why Law Departments Should Beware Super-Sized Firms", appeared in the New York Law Journal in November of 2008. Elefant wrote that large firms with the cultures Morrison had described lack "the ability to offer [clients] a broad perspective", offering instead "an aggregation of narrow views." For the last five years, I've used Elefant's phrase regularly in talks or conversations about building better lawyers and law firms. For example, lawyers in small but strong corporate law firms I've worked with often tend to be better issue-spotters, and have much stronger multi-practice instincts, than lawyers I know in firm 500 lawyers or larger working through the same isuses. In an increasingly complex business and legal world, being able to straddle a number of basic but critical fundamental principles from different practice areas will be a sought-after skill and mind set. Larger but more specialized firms do miss issues, and, yes, frequently. "An aggregation of narrow views" is part of the reason. are not the only organizations with silo cultures. The companies we serve often have the same problem. Earlier this week, Jeannie Walters wrote "How To Expand Your C-Suite Without Creating New Silo" at Business2Community. It's an interesting piece, confirming that silos cultures can hamstring our clients, too. If your firm represents large or sophistcated companies, you should read it. Here's an excerpt:

As the C-Suite becomes more crowded, it’s important everyone feels heard.
....Chief Digital Officers are not necessarily replacing Chief Information Officers. So where is the line? Do they know? What about the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief Customer Officer? Where does one role end and the next take over? It’s so tempting to think another role, another department or another leader will fix all the ills. But that’s just not the case. Leaders show the way to their teams, and if they are confused or worried about overstepping, their people will pick up on that.

Owner: Dale Mahalko, Gilman, WI,

Posted by JD Hull at January 31, 2014 11:22 PM


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