Collaborating with the enemy

Nancy Glazer is Manager of Legal Launch LLC.  The goal of Legal Launch LLC is to provide uplifting, career counseling for 3Ls, recent law school graduates and experienced attorneys. Nancy offers her clients endless ideas and possibilities to help land them the right job in a competitive market. Visit www.LegalLaunch.net or email Nancy@LegalLaunch.net for more information.  

Did any of your first year law school professors ask you to look to your right and look to your left on the first day of school? Did a professor state that one of your desktop neighbors probably would not return to school as a 2L?

Don’t shake your head one way or another on this next question, but did you ever purposefully hide information or assistance to someone in your law school class, thinking that the guy to your right or the gal to your left was your competition? Similarly, have you secretly competed with one of your colleagues in your law practice?

Has this “economy gone mad” made you more competitive than usual?

I recently attended a workshop geared toward helping people reduce their college tuition costs. The workshop was hosted by an acquaintance. Before the workshop began, the leader asked if anyone in the audience worked for any of the companies read from a list, known to be competitors. With that, an attendee raised his hand and responded that he was employed by a competitor. The leader kindly asked that gentleman to leave the workshop. In that situation, my acquaintance reasoned that he did not want to give away his work product or have the competitor steal his clients.

I am in the business of career counseling for attorneys.  I recently attended an onramping program presented by Make It Better magazine. Before signing up, I wanted to make sure that my attendance wouldn’t pose a problem. If people at the function asked for my card, I did not want to create an inappropriate or uncomfortable situation. Simply put, I wouldn’t attend if my presence created an inkling of conflict for Make It Better staff.

The response to my inquiry from Ms. Suzy Hilbrant of Make It Better was remarkable to me. She instantly exclaimed that I was more than welcome, a sentiment that was later echoed by Make It Better’s founder, Susan Noyes. Most surprising was the reaction of one of the featured speakers, Sheila Nielsen of Nielsen Consulting. In the world of career counseling for lawyers, Ms. Nielsen represents the gold standard; she, too, amazingly echoed the cooperative sentiments of the prior two women. They all agreed, “We don’t compete; we collaborate.”

Because of these contemporary, forward thinking views, “to collaborate, not compete,” my business has benefitted tremendously. I now share business with two different career counselors who were in attendance at that one program.

So what does this mean to you, the law student, the associate, the partner, or in-house counsel? Take it from someone who’s been out of law school for a very long time:

Law school buddies and former and current

colleagues will be with you for the long haul.

Years from now, you will encounter lawyers from your past again and again. You will do them favors and vice versa. These are the folks who are in the best place to help you find and achieve what you need at different points in your life.

If you can, look past the shoulders of this treacherous economy when you turn your head to the right and to the left. Try looking up too. Look to collaborate. Try a more positive path, one where you and your desktop neighbors will both make it to be 2Ls. Even as colleagues, there’s plenty of legal work to go around.

If you are ever asked again to look left and look right, I hope you will do so. Take a good look at your “competition,” and be damn glad they are sitting next to you.

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2 responses to “Collaborating with the enemy

  1. So many people think that because they may be in the same industry or practice area that they compete with each other and quite frankly this is true only in very rare cases. You need to look for ways that you will be able to help each other and not worry about competing.

  2. You have given visibility to a trend that is unfortunate, and becoming ever more pervasive: treating life as a zero sum game; you have to lose in order for me to win. It is infecting every aspect of business life, despite many disingenuous protestations to the contrary. My favorite is “our vendors are our partners” just before announcing that payment terms are going from thirty to ninety days or some other equally oppressive change in terms. While the current economic malaise provides some potential justification, it does not adequately explain it, nor excuse it. I have had experiences far more similar to yours, where mutual benefit can be found if only people refuse to give in to their baser instincts and explore the possibilities. I congratulate you for articulating the issue and encouraging people to be open to collaboration and symbiosis.

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