Channel Your Inner Kindergartner: Fostering a Culture Conducive to Creativity in Legal Practice
44 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2020
Date Written: 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic requires lawyers to address a myriad of unique problems—and highlights the need for lawyers to engage as creative problem solvers. Lawyers are faced with determining how best to deliver legal services while contending with travel restrictions, social distancing, stay-in-place measures, and business and court closures. Furthermore, questions arise as to how to tackle the access to justice gap in the midst of the largest global recession since the Great Depression.
Although lawyers need to work collaboratively to come up with creative solutions to these unprecedented problems, a challenge administered to groups of business students, lawyers, CEOs, engineers, and kindergartners revealed that lawyers do not work efficiently and effectively to creatively solve problems. In dozens of challenges, kindergartners outperformed all of the other groups. Instead of collaborating and focusing on completing the task, the lawyers were engaged in status management—trying to determine how they fit into the group and who was in charge. While not smarter than the lawyers, the kindergarteners solved the problem best because they were smarter in the way that they worked with each other.
The rigid hierarchy that tends to exist in the practice of law lends itself to increased status management. Moreover, the legal profession in the United States frequently discourages collaboration and suppresses creativity. To combat the barriers to collaboration and creativity in practice, lawyers need to “work together in a smarter way” to generate creative solutions to problems. They need to learn to behave like kindergartners.
This article argues that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the unprecedented rate of change, and the growing access to justice gap, lawyers need to develop high performing groups where creativity and innovation flourish. To that end, the article introduces three skill sets of highly performing groups that lawyers can use to create a group that can perform far beyond the sum of the team members where they are working collaboratively to creatively solve problems.
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