Are Clashing Work Styles Slowing Down Your Legal Team? Use These Career Advice Tips to Get Back on Track

When I was a litigation associate, working on a high-stakes case often meant long hours in the office, late into the night and on weekends, to meet a court-imposed deadline. It was enough to make even the most polished lawyer or legal assistant slightly irritable. But, regardless of the situation at hand, it's important to stay cool and focused on your work.

Career Advice Tips to Improve Team Collaboration

Rather than allowing attitudes and differences to add additional stress to an already pressured situation, consider these career advice tips to improve team collaboration:

  1. Acknowledge your differences upfront. Talking about differences and work style preferences at the onset of a project not only allows room for compromise, you most likely will find it becomes easier to reach agreement on how best to proceed as a team.
  2. Don’t aim too high. While you certainly don’t have to have to be close friends with everyone in your law practice, you do need to find a way to work effectively together. This may help recalibrate your expectations for coworker relationships and stay focused on tackling the tasks at hand.
  3. Avoid miscommunication. In today's fast-paced legal profession, emails and IMs are often the preferred method of communication, but they shouldn't be your only means of communication. If your team keeps getting its wires crossed, find a better solution. A brief in-person meeting or phone call often can work well to clear up miscommunication. Make sure to ask leading questions so you'll get the specific answers -- and the details -- that you’re seeking. If necessary, summarize the information you’ve been given in a follow up email and ask for final confirmation.
  4. Keep it positive. Although working with others whose professional styles clash with yours can be challenging, it doesn’t mean your colleagues don't have unique contributions to make. Once you understand and acknowledge each other's different approaches and preferences, working together can become less about differences and more about playing to each other’s individual strengths.

Of course, it's natural to think that day-to-day interactions might be a whole lot easier if everyone in your practice group had a similar work style or approach to a project, but a small degree of friction is often useful in reaching the best outcome. While taking the time to understand how your colleagues prefer to do their jobs, as well as assessing your own approach to work, won’t solve every issue, it can help you build more effective work relationships. As an added bonus, you’ll be seen as someone with a flexible style who can interact well with anyone. And this quality can only help your legal career in today’s team-oriented business environment.

What are some ways you've worked to resolve work style differences? Do you have any suggestions to offer for improving legal team collaboration?