Whether it's rappelling down a wall, forming a trust circle, taking psychological tests or making sushi, it's more common than not that firm retreats and corporate annual meetings will include team-building exercises to build camaraderie, explore inner strengths and generate creative thought.
In any organization, there will be some participants who embrace these activities and others who will be skeptical.
"You have to deal with the attorney temperament that doesn't want anything cute or cheesy. They're more jaded and don't want to waste their time," says Shawn Clark, owner of Atlanta Challenge Team Building, an Atlanta company that offers a variety of team-building exercises, ranging from rope climbing to scavenger hunts to charitable projects like building bicycles.
"You have to find out ways to engage them, get them to understand it will help them in their practice and then find exercises they can sink their teeth into."
Alvin C. Miles, director of business development for the Executive MBA program at Kennesaw State University, agrees that lawyers can be a special challenge.
"They're just wired in a different way," he says. "They have analytical strengths and skills and they apply that to problem solving. But they may need help in understanding the strategy of the firm and their role in it."
Despite the attorney temperament, team building increasingly is important to law firms as they look for ways to deepen relationships within and outside the firm. Some team building is designed to deal with a specific dynamic that may need correcting, while others are a way for attorneys to know each other and learn how they connect to the firm in order to better service clients. And in the process, the attorneys may learn a bit more about themselves.
Team building exercises often are used to introduce new attorneys into a growing firm, especially after a merger or acquisition.
"We've had such explosive growth that we have used team building exercises as a way to get to know each other," says Linda Klein, managing shareholder in the Atlanta office of Baker Donelson. "We do a variety of things aimed at bringing people together. We even had a chef conduct a cooking class and I loved it. But I don't know if team building can be achieved in a fun night outand I question whether some of the benefits can be measuredbut it was fun."
Ford & Harrison uses team building exercises to help build and maintain camaraderie in its airline practice.