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3 Ways to Motivate Your Legal and Litigation Teams

Litigation Column
A company may view its legal department as the price that “enterprises must pay for the freedoms and privileges of operating under the rule of law,” according to Geoffrey A. Moore in Zone to Win. This can weigh heavily on a litigation team that manages a large docket of expensive defensive cases and has no regular contribution to revenue. Being perceived as a drain on business resources can adversely affect morale, leading to disengagement and low-quality inefficient work.

As categorized by author Emma Seppala in her article, here are the things that workplace experts say you can provide your team to increase motivation: inspiration, kindness, and self-care.

Inspiration

Seppala explains the importance of inspiring your team: “studies show that people who have a sense of purpose are more focused, creative, and resilient, so leaders should make a point of reminding employees how their work is improving people’s lives.” An in-house litigation team can work to improve lives on different levels.

The corporate mission
Most companies have a life-improving mission that motivates employees. Rosetta Stone teaches languages, but its mission involves understanding other cultures and resolving conflict. Johnson & Johnson makes medications, first-aid, and other consumer goods, with the aim of improving people’s well-being. Employees are also motivated by improving the lives of co-workers and recipients of charitable giving. McDonald’s is proud of having “good people” (creating job opportunities) and being a “good neighbor” (keeping families together through the Ronald McDonald House Charities), as well as its “good food.”

Support teams such as finance, IT, HR, marketing, and supply chain are similar to legal. None of these teams have direct accountability for revenue. However, each team contributes to the corporate mission by optimizing productivity, specifically by ensuring one or more of compliance, efficiency (doing things right), and effectiveness (doing the right things). Providing such value consistently makes each team part of the collective effort to improve lives.

Likewise, your in-house litigation team participates in the life-improving mission by protecting the company in court with efficiency and effectiveness. You manage cases strategically to achieve a successful resolution: devising new approaches, picking the right battles, and avoiding waste. The cost savings from your efforts stay with the business, available to be spent on accomplishing the mission. And winning that bet-the-company case keeps the corporate mission alive and saves jobs.

Develop the law
As part of a larger legal community, your in-house litigation team can work to steer the development of the law in directions that improve people’s lives, as aligned with your corporate mission. For example, the litigation teams of companies that are part of the sharing economy are paving the way for those that follow, allowing for societal benefits such as effective allocation of resources, lower costs, and greater worker independence.

Take the time to remind yourself and your team of the importance of your work to help improve lives; the greater sense of purpose will pay dividends. It can be powerful to have one of your customers from the business to deliver this message as well.

Kindness

Studies indicate that managers who act selflessly and develop positive, warm relationships have teams with greater motivation and creative output. Focusing only on completing work is less effective. To foster the right kind of relationships, Jacob Morgan, author of The Employee Experience Advantage, recommends that you treat your management role as a position of service, not one of power. That is, coach and mentor your employees to help them achieve their best.

Self-care

Workplace experts often talk about studies showing the how engagement goes up on teams that allow members to relieve stress and disengage outside of work. They recommend practices that help employees to disconnect, sleep, exercise, and otherwise relax when at home. For example, allow an employee to stop monitoring email over the weekend, as long as there is a way to make contact in the event of an emergency issue.

Managers often try other approaches to increase motivation; however, they will not address an employee’s deeper motivational needs unless combined with inspiration, kindness, or self-care. This means that a corporate exercise program is unlikely to help unless the manager or workplace culture allows the employee to use it without having to attend work issues at the same time. I’ve also seen how it is ineffective to rely on case wins. While they are celebrated in the short term, they do not motivate like inspiring words or kindness from a manager.

About the Author

Noah WebsterNoah Webster serves in a general counsel role for the AtHoc division of BlackBerry, which provides networked crisis communication to government agencies and leading commercial enterprises worldwide. He cares for the company's general legal needs and is a trusted business advisor for AtHoc management. Noah has previously held roles at BlackBerry managing the global compliance program and leading the patent litigation team.


The information in any resource collected in this virtual library should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on specific facts and should not be considered representative of the views of its authors, its sponsors, and/or ACC. These resources are not intended as a definitive statement on the subject addressed. Rather, they are intended to serve as a tool providing practical advice and references for the busy in-house practitioner and other readers.