By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
Most of the civil cases we work on are big cases. It's not a lone lawyer with a briefcase, it is a team: several senior attorneys, associates, paralegals, and in-house counsel. That's the team that needs to work together through the long haul of the lead-up to trial, and that's the team that needs to wrestle with the difficult strategic decisions on whether and how to proceed and prepare. Some parts of that team are forced together, but other parts, especially the parts on the law firm side, are the products of the choices made by the lead counsel who builds the team. And like all teams, there are some qualities that make it more or less effective.
The old-school intuition is that, to make a great team, you just take the best people and put them together. But the more research is done on effective teams, the more we are understanding that there is more to it than that. And one company that has dedicated itself to discovering what really makes for a great team is Google. As discussed in a couple of recent articles (in Inc and The New York Times), Google has been fixated on the idea of building the perfect team. So the company initiated a project, "Project Aristotle," and reviewed 50 years of academic studies, and spent 2 years looking at 180 of their own teams. They measured and analyzed more than 250 variables about those teams, using an algorithm to discover which traits were shared by the teams most likely to stick together and most likely to produce creative and high-value results. The result? Successful teams share five critical traits or group norms. In this post, I will share those traits and discuss their application to trial teams.