What if we could take one of the most successful franchises in history and build the perfect law firm based on the leadership principles we’ve learned from the New England Patriots?
Last night, the Patriots made history. At halftime, the Atlanta Falcons were leading 28 to three. I don’t think anyone could have predicted what the second half would bring. Brady and Belichick led the team to a tie with just under a minute left in the game. A touchdown for the Patriots during overtime sealed the deal for the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
They may have come into the game as the favorite but that quickly changed and, by half-time, they were the underdogs. Never before had a team come back in a Super Bowl from such an extreme deficit. So, what happened?
Strong leadership and a team that vowed to work together and never give up.
What lessons can law firms learn from this incredible triumph? As someone who coaches attorneys, I saw several parallels in last night’s game. I think the most poignant noted below are especially transferrable to our legal industry.
1. Teamwork is necessary.
Law firms have so many missed opportunities because they often don’t work effectively as a team. Lawyers need to know their colleagues. I have been surprised to learn how many attorneys don’t even know their partners or understand the depth of their practice. How can you cross-service clients if you don’t have a handle on what services your firm can provide? Many law firms need to invest more time in internal marketing to establish a culture that fosters teamwork, trust and collaboration. Brady could not bring home the Super Bowl win on his own-- leaders aren’t effective without a team. A touchdown is the culmination of defense and offense working together. While some players may get more credit and notoriety than others- every man on the Patriots roster was impactful in winning this game, so much so that the TEAM won the Vince Lombardi Trophy last night.
2. Leaders lead.
Law firm politics can cause many leaders to be fearful to ruffle feathers and stand their ground on pertinent issues. It is imperative that law firm leaders think and act more like businesses, making sound judgements that benefit the firm. All too often, leaders reverse unpopular decisions because of the perceived impact to the few, not what is best for the whole. Just like within our law firms, leaders need to step up and take charge. As for the Patriots, Tom Brady is the heart of the team and he unified this team. Even when down by 25 points, he inspired and motivated them to rally. The quarterback needs to call the play, execute and follow through.
3. Accountability is not lost.
We all understand how hard it can be to have difficult conversations with your colleagues; however, it is necessary. Lawyers were trained in law school on conflict resolution; it’s time that those skills start being practiced. If you aren’t pulling your weight, you need to take responsibility and be held accountable. The Patriots were down by 25 points, the most in any other Super Bowl, ever. The team collectively took responsibility and clawed back into contention.
Why take the extra point when the two-point conversion can position you for the win?
4. Don’t play it safe.
Most law firms are surprisingly risk adverse. But this ever-changing legal market means that status quo is no longer acceptable. Firms need to be pushing the envelope with change and innovation. We saw it many times last night: the Patriots took risks. Why take the extra point when the two-point conversion can position you for the win?
5. Be extraordinary.
Not everyone can say that they are married to a supermodel or have Lady Gaga perform on the weekend. What is your firm’s differentiator? Forget about “expertise” and “knowledge”, those are table stakes. Where is the intersection of what makes your firm unique and what your clients want? Don’t just meet expectations; exceed them.
Forget about “expertise” and “knowledge”, those are table stakes.
For now, the New England Patriots firm of Brady, Bennett & Belichick, LLP is not possible (mostly because the privatization of legal has not yet fully made its way to the U.S.) However, law firms everywhere can take the principles that were learned from this team and this game to adapt to their own business model.
My challenge to law firms: think strategically about the areas that your firm needs to focus on and how the lessons learned can be adopted to your firm. Change starts with you. How will you be a change agent that pushes your firm to the end zone?
Keep your eye on the prize: never give up, be aggressive and aim for the win.
[Society 54 Co-Founder Jill Huse is renowned as a trusted professional services advisor. A certified Worldwide Association of Business Coaches Coach, Jill is highly regarded for her progressive ingenuity, research-based strategy and, most importantly, her ability to deliver results for clients.]