Why Practicing Law Is a Team Sport

If you’re a legal professional, then you’re probably well aware of the demise of super-firm Dewey & LeBoeuf. No doubt firms large and small will take heed to avoid finding themselves in a similar state, and there is indeed a cautionary tale to be told.

Of the many lessons to be gleaned from the firm’s collapse, one that stood out to us in Ronald Barusch’s piece on the subject was this bit: “Successful law firms have partners enthusiastic about not only their own practice and compensation, but also about building the institution. Otherwise it all becomes about partners competing with each other for a bigger share of the pie. Some such competition is inevitable, but, with nothing else, a law firm won’t prosper.”

Often firms measure their success, and the key elements of being successful, via financial metrics. And while the bottom line is important, the vision can’t stop there. Given that the bigger the firm, the bigger the overhead, any firm could make more money by staying small; lawyers, theoretically, could be more successful practicing on their own. So why do so many lawyers choose to practice as part of a firm? Because there is value in being part of the collective, in being able to offer more comprehensive services to clients, in being surrounded by people who can help you learn and grow. But you have to value the success of the enterprise and put it on par with your own individual success or you’re going to find yourself in trouble – collectively. Being committed to the enterprise, to the other people who are part of the firm, is an idea rooted in generosity. The ultimate belief that if you care about and promote the success of others around you, rising tides will follow is a leap of faith. But if you don’t take it, the fall in the end might be much harder.

Is your firm a cooperative collective, dedicated to the success of all? Tell us how below.