Skip to content


Heidi Gardner

  • Harvard career expert: The No. 1 ‘desirable skill’ that very few people have—especially men

    March 15, 2023

    An article by Heidi Gardner: When young people ask me for career advice, I always tell them: “Don’t just focus on your own accomplishments. Be…

  • Collaboration Stalled? So Make It Smarter

    January 23, 2023

    It’s no secret that in many organizations “teamwork” is more of a hopeful slogan than an actual practice. Sure, many people talk a good game…

  • Smarter Collaboration – A New Approach to Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work

    January 13, 2023

    Today I talked to Dr. Heidi K. Gardner about her new book (co-authored with Ivan A. Matviak) Smarter Collaboration: A New Approach to Breaking Down…

  • How Teams Can Achieve ‘Smarter Collaboration’

    December 19, 2022

    Rob Cross, a Babson College management professor, has estimated that 90% of leaders suffer collaboration overload, and that it’s possible to perform better and reclaim…

  • Pioneers and Pathfinders: Dr. Heidi K. Gardner Returns

    November 10, 2022

    Today we welcome back our premiere guest, Dr. Heidi K. Gardner. An economist by training, she is a distinguished fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center…

  • Trust is hard to come by in the workplace

    October 6, 2022

    I recently talked to a Working It podcast guest who convinced me that we need nothing less than a shake up of organisational structures in…

  • Best Of Pioneers And Pathfinders: Dr. Heidi Gardner (Podcast)

    March 28, 2022

    To celebrate the one-year anniversary of Pioneers and Pathfinders, we present this "best of" episode, featuring our first guest, Dr. Heidi Gardner. Dr. Gardner is a distinguished fellow at Harvard Law School's Center on the Legal Profession and faculty chair of the school's Accelerated Leadership Program and Sector Leadership Masterclass. She is also the best-selling author of Smart Collaboration and noted thought leader on the topics of collaboration, lateral hiring, in-house legal teams, leadership, and performance.

  • What Can a Litigator Bring to the Role of Global Law Firm Chair?

    April 27, 2021

    Not all frontline litigators are trusted boardroom advisors. By all accounts, the incoming chair of the management committee at Sidley Austin is both...Heidi Gardner, a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession, said 70% of law firms that have a firm-level strategic plan have collaboration as a key pillar of that strategy. Deal lawyers have some built-in advantages on that front. Deal lawyers by nature of their practice pull in cross-disciplinary teams from practices like tax, antitrust, and finance. But Gardner said that great litigators also have the ability to understand their clients well and see the broader set of issues that their firm can help them navigate. She also says that litigators can bring great two-way communication skills to leadership positions.“A great litigator is going to be a great listener; somebody who is going to be able to very much in the moment combine what she’s hearing with what she’s learning by reading a room,” Gardner said. “The flipside is being persuasive and influential and knowing how to address the needs of different audiences.”

  • Speeding Up Change: How to Build on Small Victories

    March 17, 2021

    Justin Ergler, director of alternative fee intelligence and analytics at GlaxoSmithKline in Raleigh, North Carolina, said GlaxoSmithKline has moved away from the billable hour, and is now in flat-fee arrangements with its outside counsel. However, that change took the better part of a decade to achieve. “Change, even with great ideas, is oftentimes resisted until the very last second, until you have to change,” Ergler said. Ergler spoke at a Legalweek(year) presentation titled “How to Price, Collaborate, Invest in Tech and Build Business as a Result” on Tuesday...Test driving a solution is often critical to achieving buy-in and success. To drive change within an organization, there needs to be a proper pilot program in place, said Heidi Gardner, a distinguished fellow at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “A lot of people just set something up and let it run. At the end of that you don’t really have the data to know whether it was successful or not. If it wasn’t successful, why not? I think you need a much more structured, thoughtful, preemptive approach to launching a pilot,” Gardner said.

  • Smart Collaboration with Dr. Heidi Gardner

    August 3, 2020

    Collaboration has become essential in today’s complex world, and research-based strategies can help you do it better! Dennis & Tom welcome Dr. Heidi Gardner to discuss her practical experience and academic research on collaboration and how lawyers can benefit from her insights into the legal profession by becoming a more effective team...Heidi K. Gardner, PhD, is a Distinguished Fellow and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School.

  • Client Conversations: Interview with Dr. Heidi Gardner, Harvard Law School Distinguished Fellow, Center on the Legal Profession

    June 26, 2020

    In this episode, Craig Budner interviews Dr. Heidi Gardner. Growing up just outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania in Amish Country, Dr. Gardner went on to live and work on four continents, including as a Fulbright Fellow, and for McKinsey + Co. and Procter + Gamble. She earned her B.A. degree in Japanese from the University of Pennsylvania, a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, and a second master’s and Ph.D. from the London Business School. Over the past decade, she has conducted in-depth studies on numerous global professional service firms and performed empirical research on organizational collaboration. Dr. Gardner published the results of her work in Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos in January 2017. Listen to how collaboration, especially during crisis, enables proactive leadership and offers better client solutions.

  • If Cash Is King, Do Law Firms Need to Change Their Business Model to Keep Up?

    June 23, 2020

    Self-sacrifice, at least of the rhetorical variety, is the order of the day among partners in a number of top law firms. As firms began to feel the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the early weeks of lockdown, scarcely a day went by without news of a major firm making cutbacks, almost always including reductions to partner compensation. Couched as preparations for an uncertain future, a small number of firms have pared back nonlawyer staff. More have zeroed in on compensation. And where this has happened, a disproportionate amount of the burden has fallen on equity partners...There’s certainly a legacy of law firms stripping the balance sheet clean at the end of the fiscal year, distributing all the profits to the partnership and starting fresh.  “This is a historical artifact of law firms that have grown up from a handful of partners sitting around the table to global behemoths,” says Heidi Gardner, a distinguished fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession... “At McKinsey, we really did live and breathe clients first,” says Gardner, who spent five years with the company before she began researching professional services firms. Indeed, many of the statements from firms confirming their recent compensation cuts have taken pains to emphasize that resources devoted to client services will remain amply funded. It’s rhetoric, but it also acknowledges a long-term outlook. “Clients are better off when firms are led and structured in ways that help people understand that it is not an individualistic play. They need to be structured and led in a way that people understand there’s no conflict of interest between what’s good for them, what’s good for the firm and what’s good for the client,” Gardner says. “There’s a lot of conventions in standard legal practice that make sure these three don’t have full alignment.”

  • Smart Collaboration in the Time of COVID

    May 14, 2020

    In this Law Technology Now episode with host Ralph Baxter, Ralph welcomes Heidi Gardner to talk about her research into collaboration and her work furthering the concept of Smart Collaboration. Heidi defines the meaning of Smart Collaboration, and gives her thoughts on the impacts COVID-19 is having on collaboration throughout the industry. She also discusses her time at Harvard Law School, how she developed a passion for studying collaboration, and why she’s devoted her career to improving how we work together. Heidi Gardner is the distinguished fellow & lecturer on law at Harvard Law School.

  • Cutting Through the Noise: How to Use Industry Expertise to Get Clients’ Attention

    May 6, 2020

    An article by Heidi Gardner and Dave Harvey: General counsel are under greater pressure than ever to add value to their entity by integrating their legal and industry expertise—deeply and early—into their organization’s strategic business decision-making. GCs’ access to and potential influence on the board is at an all-time high.  Meanwhile, they are severely time constrained and facing an overload of information—mainly, what they consider to be generic spam from their outside lawyers. How can law firms cut through the noise to offer truly critical insights that help clients anticipate and address the highest-value problems? In-house counsel need advice from outside attorneys who generally have a broader view of the legal and business issues affecting particular industries—and they are rightfully demanding that the insights are tailored to their own, specific business needs. Now is a perfect time to bolster your firm’s sector leadership initiative so that client teams can provide customized expertise that help GCs navigate the business through this global health and economic crisis. Doing so will distinguish your firm, build client loyalty by helping turn the GC into a hero, and seed success for the recovery. That said, this is a hard time to generate buy-in for an initiative, especially if your firm hadn’t already committed pre-crisis to building a robust sector-focused client approach.

  • When Collaboration Boosts Productivity—And When It Doesn’t

    May 5, 2020

    The coronavirus pandemic has made collaboration more challenging for many workers, especially those who aren’t used to working from home. But it’s also made effective collaboration more essential than ever, as workers who are feeling anxious and disconnected need the sense of security that a common purpose provides...Team leaders need to be able to explain—to themselves and to everyone on their team—why each member is crucial, says Heidi Gardner, a fellow at Harvard Law School and author of Smart Collaboration. If all you need is a person’s buy-in, or a targeted use of their skills or knowledge, then don’t invite them to every meeting. Instead, find ways to keep them informed about progress, or bring them in for a specific task. For significant collaborations, Gardner favors a formal project launch where the leader spells out team objectives and individual roles. Individuals should be given the time to reflect on how their skills, knowledge or background can contribute to the team. They can also discuss their own personal work styles or communication preferences. As teams shift to remote work during the pandemic, colleagues are often working with new tools or facing new personal or professional expectations. This is a good opportunity to revisit the team “basics” that were determined during the project launch, Gardner says.

  • Why Collaboration Is the Key to Contract Management Success

    August 30, 2019

    The average business manages between 20,000 and 40,000 contracts at any given time. With that kind of volume, and the risk of compounding inefficiencies in time and cost, firms simply can’t afford to get contract management wrong...There is a key component of contracting, however, that is being overlooked—collaboration...Research from Harvard Law Distinguished Fellow Heidi Gardner has found that average revenue per customer rises among firms that have a high degree of collaboration. Better collaboration enables organizations to recognize and elevate employee contributions.

  • The Verdict Is In: “Smart Collaboration” in Law Firms Paves Way for Success

    May 16, 2018

    As early as law school orientation, budding attorneys get their first taste of working in siloes. Don’t share notes, keep your outlines to yourself – sound familiar? However, research from Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession suggests there’s a better way to achieve success in the legal field. In her book entitled Smart Collaboration, Heidi Gardner, Harvard Law School lecturer and distinguished fellow at the Center, argues that lawyers should check that lone-wolf mentality at the law firm door for maximum benefit to the firm, clients and the attorneys themselves. Gardner lays out data showing that cross-collaboration in law firms yields a level of benefit far greater than anything achieved in a silo. Specifically, the data suggests that, among other benefits, smart collaboration is associated with better financial outcomes and client loyalty and retention.

  • Want a profitable law firm? ‘Don’t hire jerks’: Harvard professor Heidi Gardner

    February 15, 2018

    Heidi Gardner knows how to get law firms to pay attention when she tells them collaboration – not exorbitant rewards to rainmakers and an eat-what-you-kill environment – is the key to long-term success and profitability: by using hard data..."We've got millions of data records from lots of different firms, sometimes spanning up to 10 years," she told The Australian Financial Review during a recent visit to Sydney. "We can measure collaboration and we can measure the outcomes, sometimes years down the road, and show strategically there are very strong benefits of collaboration."