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Four observations about dysfunctional teams that likely apply to lawyer teams

Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, Clever: Leading your smartest, most creative people (Harv. Bus. 2009) at 77, state that “high-IQ individuals frequently performed badly when they were put together in a team. In competitive situations, [the researcher cited] found that teams consisting of less clever people typically outperformed teams of clever people.” Grant lawyers higher than average IQs and assume they are competitive: a bad mix for teamwork.

Eleven pages later the authors observe that “professional teams have a tendency to be willfully naughty.” In other words, they often display staggeringly low levels of social discipline. Lawyers on teams goof off, disrupt, act immaturely and often make a hash of coordinated efforts.

Goffee and Jones also write that teams of professionals seek to avoid feedback. Lawyers know they are smart so why hear what others think. Confident in their skills and abilities, they plunge ahead.

A final malfunction of professional teams is a tendency to be overly concerned about setting rules and norms – something that arises from their professional training. Lawyers are accustomed to rules of procedure and protocols.

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