Vail Daily column: A fascination with collaboration

T.J. Voboril
Open Bar

Proselytizing the gospel of cooperation and not combat can often be a lonely and seemingly hopeless endeavor. Stacked against my vision of a radically different or nonexistent legal system is the entire lucrative legal industry, not to mention humanity’s penchant for conflict. Yet I remain dedicated to the cause, knowing in my heart and head that it is worthy. Recently, I have been energized in my quest by an epiphany gained from a shift in perspective. Instead of lamenting the entrenchment of an outmoded system for dispute resolution, I celebrate the promise embodied by the new economy. The economic revolution is not merely the province of Silicon Valley startups: Some of the world’s most influential corporations and persons are making the business case for collaboration.


Microsoft has a new CEO who, like his predecessors, is a visionary. In a recent article in Wired, he shared a startling insight that set off sparks in my brain. Once a company dedicated to monopolistic hegemony, there has been a conscious effort, both internally and externally, to embrace the potential of collaboration. Microsoft has reorganized its corporate structure to have more transparency and cooperation between departments, which is intended to increase both efficiency and flexibility in the ever-changing tech world. Even more shocking, instead of unleashing the full force of its legal and business might upon potential competitors (such as Salesforce), Microsoft is working with them.


In the 1990s, the rap industry was embroiled in a literally deadly East Coast-West Coast feud. As bad as a copyright infringement lawsuit may be, this was on a completely different level: Biggie and Tupac both went down in a hail of bullets. Their untimely deaths at least served as a wake-up call to their fellow rappers, making everyone realize that the consequences of unbridled competition subsumed any potential economic benefits.

Support Local Journalism

These days, the rap game is characterized by alliances between artists that, under the old guard, never would have created collectively. Almost every modern rap track features a list of collaborators, and it has seriously enriched the tapestry of a genre that could have gone stale. Instead, it has gone mainstream and the profits have metastasized.


To use a more local example, consider Avery Brewing Co. out of Boulder. One of the beers they were pouring at the recently-concluded WinterWonderGrass Festival was dubbed Collaboration, Not Litigation Ale. This potent potable was created when Avery and Russian River Brewing Co. from California realized that they each had a “Salvation” beer in their arsenal.

The craft beer industry was and is still plagued by lawsuits between breweries over trademarks and naming rights. As a testament to their pioneering spirit, the two breweries opted to forgo litigation and instead worked together to forge a new beer that married the best qualities of the respective “Salvations.” Based on personal experience, their combined creation tasted divine and certainly better than what I imagine a lawsuit would taste like.

Each of these industries had previously been marked by almost psychotic levels of competition. Thus, the aforementioned moves to a more collaborative ethos are inspiring and instructive, particularly because the market segments have become, if anything, more crowded and more dynamic. These innovators took a hard look at the marketplace and also meticulously evaluated themselves, identifying their own strengths and weaknesses. They then understood, and you should too, that long-term success was more readily achievable if they found a partner that had complementary skills. It is impossible to do everything well: Microsoft dominated the PC market but rested on its laurels and got left behind when the industry pivoted to mobile and cloud computing. Despite its massive resources, the company went outside its walls to gain access to strategies for becoming a player in these burgeoning arenas.


The benefits of collaboration are not purely financial, but capturing the hearts and minds of the populace requires convincing their accountants as well. When gas prices are low, renewable energies struggle to gain traction even though it is well recognized that fossil fuels are not sustainable and are harming our planet’s health. Similarly, potential disputants need to know that they are being financially prudent in walking away from litigation despite understanding that lawsuits are stressful and to be avoided if at all possible.

The ruthless and zero-sum pursuit of money that has characterized our system for so long is, if not going extinct, at least evolving in a positive direction. Optimistic to my core, that is enough progress to keep me motivated in my journey.

T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner and mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, or visit

Support Local Journalism