Law Firm Teamwork Illuminated by a Lesson from Thomas Edison

I recently read a book in which the author surmised that most readers would describe Thomas Edison as a lone tinkerer working on his many inventions in a small workshop in isolation. I must admit that when I pictured Edison, I pictured him exactly that way.

I was surprised to learn that in fact, rather than being a solitary genius working in isolation, Edison worked in a state of the art facility, and a large group of scientists worked in collaboration with him on each of his inventions.

Teamwork in the Law Firm Environment

What about you? Are you trying to go it alone? Many lawyers I’ve worked with, especially solo practitioners, think that they must do everything themselves. They do not like to ask for help or to admit that they do not understand some aspect of running their law firm or serving their clients. They feel that they have a responsibility to resolve every problem on their own.

Yet for the most successful lawyers, the contrary is true. As we’ve seen with Thomas Edison, even those we consider to be geniuses or superstars often have others working with them behind the scenes to achieve success through teamwork.

Studies have shown that isolation leads to decreased productivity and can be harmful to your physical and mental health. Regardless of the size of your law firm, when you collaborate with others, the exercise in teamwork will improve your practice by boosting efficiency, motivation and/or performance.

Teamwork and the Solo Practitioner

Even solo practitioners can build teams by identifying strategic partners, creating mastermind groups, working with coaches or consultants, hiring experts when necessary, or outsourcing work to others. Some of these people may be personal friends or family who act as supporters or cheerleaders; others may be business associates, employees or peers who serve a more direct business function.

The Many Benefits of Teamwork

Members of your team can provide you with:

  • Complementary skills and abilities
  • A new perspective
  • Support and encouragement
  • A shoulder to cry on
  • Ideas or inspiration for ways to develop business, enhance value for clients or boost referrals
  • Resources and information
  • Feedback on planned or ongoing projects
  • Accountability
  • Help to articulate and achieve goals
  • Division of responsibility
  • Advice and counsel

What do your teams, coaches, strategic partners, and support networks provide for your practice?

If you’re starting or growing a small or solo law firm and looking to enhance your teamwork and support network, you absolutely must join Lawyerist Insider. And if you’re interested in getting a powerful snapshot of your firm’s strengths and weaknesses right now, take the Small Firm Scorecard.

Originally published 2010-06-17. Last updated 2019-04-11.

Allison Shields
Allison Shields is a law practice coach and consultant with Legal Ease Consulting.