Lawyers Journal

Lessons learned from the band

As I write this column, I am less than three weeks into my term as your president. Yet your officers, section councils and others have hit the ground running with membership initiatives, educational offerings and other efforts commencing in full force.

Those who attended the MBA President's Reception at the Regattabar on Sept. 13 were beneficiaries of a good time with good music. My friend, the superb pianist and keyboard player, Bruce Bears, assembled an all-star line-up that included Chris Rivelli on drums, Brad Hallen on bass, Scott Aruda on trumpet, Mark Early on saxophone, and Boston's queen and king of the blues, Toni Lynn Washington and Duke Robillard. Although some of these musicians have worked with each other from time to time, the band, as assembled, never had played together before. Aside from needing considerable musical chops to play under those circumstances, the principal skills needed are the ability to listen and to play in a complementary fashion.

The musicianship on display on Sept. 13 was quintessential ensemble playing. In short, it was musical teamwork of the highest order. I hope those present appreciated the talent and teamwork required to do what was on display at the Regattabar. Soloing by the musicians was subservient to the group. The musicians listened to and played off one another. The whole, I suggest, was greater than the sum of the parts.

We, as lawyers and as an association, can learn from the example set forth by those musicians. Working together toward common goals and objectives requires careful communication and keen listening skills. Many of us tend to listen more in terms of our own positions than in truly hearing the positions of others. Like a band with players who do not listen to each other and ultimately do not play well together, a group of lawyers who do not listen to each other will not work well together. In those circumstances the whole, indeed, will be less than the sum of the parts.

There are many musicians with terrific skills who play poorly in a group setting primarily because they do not listen and are focused too much on their own performance. The same problem can stifle an association like the MBA. We have many talented lawyers volunteering their valuable time for the good of the group. We need to make sure we all listen to and hear each other to maximize the substantial value of this wealth of altruism.

I therefore urge all of us to adopt a chorus from the music book of the band from Sept. 13: let's listen carefully to each other, hear what each of us has to say and only then, respond accordingly. By doing that, as a team, we will address effectively the common challenges of our profession like the superb musical ensemble that performed on Sept. 13.

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