Some news reports for the recent World Cup stated “Lack of teamwork leads to Brazil draw against Mexico” . The New York Times said “German teamwork, efficiency, thoroughness, collective spirit, call it what you will, beat the Netherlands that time.” The Atlantic wrote “Germany’s Beautifully Communal World Cup Win Over Argentina – The victors put the team ahead of the individual.”
Soccer recognises the value of teamwork and its correlation to success. When considering the solicitors and barrister relationship do we consider and value teamwork?
Solicitors were surveyed a number of years ago, in respect to what “gets on their nerves” about barristers. Solicitor’s grievances in respect to barristers were short listed, as follows:
- Letting solicitors down
- Lack of oral communication
- Failure to return phone calls & emails
- “Missing in action”
- Not reading the brief early or not thoroughly enough and as a result change their initial advice in the matter and not being conversant with the issues in the case.
- Not sensitive to the client and even pay the client little attention.
- Don’t explain to the client in an easily understood manner for the client.
- Not sensitive or respectful to the solicitor in recognition that the solicitor is a client (and team member) also
Barristers were also surveyed at the same time as to what are the most annoying traits of solicitors and they are as follows:
- Not having money in trust prior to briefing barristers
- Non payment or late payment of barrister fees
- The amount solicitors charge when the Barrister has done the lions share of the work i.e. ripping off clients
- Briefing with insufficient instructions and then the solicitor goes “missing in action” and barrister has to appear in court without proper instructions
- Last minute instructions
- Not briefing Counsel early enough i.e. last minute briefs
- Being briefed by a solicitor who has not been sufficiently mentored by more senior practitioners in a firm
The passage of time has not lessened these conflicts, even though they have been publically aired and each side is aware of the others criticisms. So how do we create a teamwork environment so that each side has their respective needs met?
I am a fraternal twin, and I have a twin sister, whom I am very close relationship with. Being a twin does provide unique advantage to learn teamwork, either voluntarily or by imposition. In order to have success as a twin, I voluntarily learned teamwork. I learned from a very young age that belonging to a team, in the broadest sense, is a result of feeling part of something larger than yourself. It has a lot to do with understanding objectives, goals and intentions. In a team-orientated environment all parties contribute to overall goals, intentions and objectives; teamwork is based on altruism. Effective teamwork is both profoundly simple and difficult at the same time.
Solicitors and barristers could relieve and extinguish many of the relationship issues that arise and have been documented by considering and implementing tried and tested, team work strategies, for the benefit of all, they include:
- Clear expectations; has there been clear communication, from both the solicitor and the barrister, about what is expected of each team member, which would relieve most of the contentions of both barristers and solicitors?
- Context: does each team member know what their role is and why they are participating and how their roles fit within the total context of the matter?
- Commitment: the depth of the commitment of team members to work together effectively to accomplish the goals of the team is a critical factor in team success. The relationships team members develop out of this commitment are key in team building and team success.
- Competence: Does the team feel that it has the appropriate people participating? Are the barristers briefed those already in “the stable” or “part of the panel” or “barristers we always use”. Are they the appropriate people to build teamwork?
- Charter: Has the team taken its assigned area of responsibility and designed its own mission, vision and strategies to accomplish the mission. Has the team defined and communicated its goals; its anticipated outcomes and contributions and its timelines to each other?
- Control: Does the team have enough freedom and empowerment to feel the ownership necessary to accomplish its charter? At the same time, do team members clearly understand their boundaries?
- Collaboration: Does the team understand team and group processes? Are team members working together effectively interpersonally? Do all team members understand the roles and responsibilities of team members?
- Communication: Are team members clear about the priority of their tasks? Is there an established method for the teams to give feedback and receive honest performance feedback? Do team members communicate clearly and honestly with each other?
- Consequences: Do team members feel responsible and accountable for team achievements? Do team members spend their time finger pointing rather than resolving problems?
The solicitor and barrister relationship is the ultimate legal partnership or team, based on trust, reliance, communication, loyalty and honesty. All participants in the World Cup were skilled, professional soccer players, yet what made the difference for success, to enable World Cup victory? Teamwork!
Teamwork is the basis for happier personal and business relationships, which create a more enjoyable environment for all to work in. Practicing teamwork will exceed your expectations with success and enjoyment exponentially heightened.