Cross-Departmental Collaboration isn't a Meaningless Buzzword

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To some lawyers, "cross-departmental collaboration" sounds like one of those keywords resume writers tell you to include in your resume that sounds good but doesn't really mean anything.

The problem is "cross-departmental collaboration" does mean something. And, yes, if you can legitimately claim it as a skill or part of your experience, then you should have it in your resume. And if you don't yet have high quality experience in cross-functional or cross-divisional work, then you should get some! 

Why? Ability to work well with professionals and front-line employees outside the legal department is critical to both in-house and outside counsel's success. And the need for attorneys who can work well across these divisions is growing. Even so, many lawyers find it challenging to partner with non-lawyers.

Robert Half Finance & Accounting, the financial recruitment division of mega search and recruiting company Robert Half, recently conducted a survey of chief financial officers (CFOs), as described in "Finance Staff Struggle To Interact With Different Personalities In Other Departments : CFOs Reveal Top Hurdles to Cross-Departmental Collaboration ." Clearly, this survey was done with finance and accounting professionals in mind . However, I've spoken to thousands of lawyers (including general counsel  about career development and hiring corporate counsel, and the results apply well to attorneys too.

The CFOs ranked "learning to interact with a variety of personalities" as the "greatest challenge for accounting and finance professionals when working with coworkers in other departments ." 

The survey identified four major reasons why the collaboration can be difficult:

  • The range of personalities

  • Stressful situations

  • Conflicting deadlines

  • Different vocabularies

Just like CFOs (and aspiring CFOs) , attorneys can develop individual strategies to overcome these difficulties -- and doing so it critical to both your individual success as a in-house or outside lawyer, but also to the success of the corporations you serve.