Business is a team sport, and the schools that teach it understand this: They generally orient their assignments, their grades, and their classes around collaboration.

Law schools do basically none of these things. We train and assess law students as individuals:  With few exceptions (e.g., moot court or journals), their classwork, their tests, and their job opportunities hinge on their ability to succeed as individuals. Is law an individual sport?

In a new study, we look at dealmakers in law firms, examining the individual characteristics that distinguish those who lead M&A deals. We find that successful leaders of a firm’s significant deals rarely lead alone.  Their characteristics include having:

  • greater current value (making money and cementing claims of expertise),
  • higher prospective value (cultivating clients and attracting future clients and employees), and
  • more substantial stakeholder value (retaining star attorneys and burnishing their reputations).

Firms tend to tout significant deals, so we look at their press releases to assess the importance of leadership teams versus individual leaders.

Tracey E. George, G. Mitu Gulati & Albert Yoon, The Power Five: Law as a Team Sport, CLS Blue Sky Blog (2004).