By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
T.o.M stands for “Theory of Mind,” and it is a very academic name for a very practical concept that might determine the difference between an effective team and an ineffective one. That is a difference that should matter to most trial lawyers. In criminal law and more modest civil cases, trials still can be the work of the one courageous solo attorney. But in complex civil litigation, taking a case through discovery and trial is a team effort. Those teams can be either effective or dysfunctional – or they can vary from one to the other on a day-to-day basis.
As members of a number of different teams, you’ve probably wondered what makes some of them work and some of them fail, and researchers have looked into the answer. If you think it comes down to the talents and intelligence of individual members, you would be wrong. If you think it has more to do with the power and style of the group leader, you would also be wrong. Instead, it boils down to just a few common traits broadly practiced by the team as a whole. A recent article in The New York Times' "Gray Matter" column, entitled "Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others," provides some intriguing answers that point to some practical implications for litigation teams. This post takes a look at both the research as well as the implications.