Different Courts, Same Principles – What Law Firms Can Learn from the Golden State Warriors

April 13, 2017 Barbara Reedy

I recently attended a Warriors basketball game.  The star, Steph Curry, scores in mind-bending ways. Natural ability, hard work, and dedication to the game make him great– but what allows him to be unbelievably great?  His team; a collection of unselfish talent all around him – passing, blocking, setting screens, grabbing rebounds.  A smoothly oiled machine needs each tiny cog to run efficiently and this team needs each player to move together toward the win. 

A great legal team is made up of a collection of dedicated professionals moving together to achieve a common goal: success for their clients.  How can you make your firm a winning team?  You could learn a thing or two from the Golden State Warriors.

Encourage excellence.

The most important, yet most intangible, element of a successful team is its culture. Encourage excellence.  The Dubs do.  Steve Kerr leads a team that plays with joy and generosity, grit, and determination.  A law firm’s culture should inspire the same level of excellence.  Every position at your firm is important and each person should know his or her importance.  Facilitate smooth communication between all positions – legal assistant, attorney, file room, paralegal, reception, marketing, IT, finance, partners, and associates.  People who feel valued are more likely to be motivated to do their very best for the good of the client and the firm.

Be mentors.

Lawyers who find passion and joy in the practice of law pass their enthusiasm to those around them.  Righteous excitement will create an environment in which everyone who touches a case file is invested in the result.  Andre Iguodala has played for 13 years in the NBA, loves the game, and is known as a mentor to his younger teammates.  He and Shaun Livingston love bringing out the best in their fellow Warriors whether it is Ian Clark, Kevon Looney, or Patrick McCaw.  Newly minted lawyers who receive guidance from experienced attorneys, will be of great service to the team.  An added bonus is the long-term benefit; a firm that encourages mentoring between seasoned lawyers and young associates will likely have great lawyers for years to come.

Rely on your point guard.

Legal assistants are the glue that holds the team together.  Much like Draymond Green looks ahead to see which path the ball should take to get to the hoop, legal assistants look ahead to ensure that no deadlines are missed on the road to trial.  They run interference for all players; coordinating conflicting court schedules, attorney schedules, opposing counsel vacation plans, client schedules, and document deadlines; fielding calls and churning out required filings on time and with accuracy.

Develop your outside shot.

Paralegals got game.  They may be called in to play at any time to sleuth out the finer points of previous legal decisions.  Their expertise and assistance may give attorneys time to think the big thoughts and plan the trajectory of a winning argument.  When paralegals join forces with tech support, it’s splash time!  Like a 3-point swish from the corner, pinpoint precision with exhibits at trial may mean the difference between winning and losing.

Respect the second team.

Down by 2 in the middle of the fourth quarter, Shaun Livingston comes off the bench to score a quick 6, putting the Warriors ahead and igniting the rest of the team to another win.  It’s 3:30 and your filing is due by 5:00 – who madly runs the copies, scans the file into the database, and heads out into afternoon traffic to make sure your filing gets done and gets done right?  Respect the file clerks and they will come through for you.

Develop a strong fan base.

The Dubs have very dedicated fans.  (This author included.) When players step inside Oracle Arena, hear the roar and see the sea of fans awash in blue and gold, they feel the support – it is contagious.  Fans have total confidence in their team.  This is how your clients should feel about your firm from the first moment they step into the lobby.  Receptionists with confidence in the firm and respect for their co-workers translate that confidence to the client and help make that client into a fan.

Give back to your community.

Let your success spill over into the community at large.  The Warriors Foundation supports a myriad of worthy causes: child literacy, sportsmanship, and child abuse prevention, to name just a few.  When you share your good fortune with your community, not only does it directly benefit the causes you support, it reflects well on your entire firm as well.  It is also a natural way to meet like-minded people and increase your network of potential referral sources.

Last but not least - Win! 

Follow the example of Golden State and win as often as possible!  Be a team that plays the right way, cares about the game, and cares about each other.  A firm that values every employee, encourages people to share their expertise, and employs people who are passionate about what they do, is a firm that will succeed at the highest level.  

…And it probably wouldn’t hurt if you could develop an accurate 3-point shot from half-court as well, but maybe we should leave that to the professionals. 


Barbara Reedy is part of the front office team at McManis Faulkner and an avid Warriors fan.  Her favorite player is Andre Iguodala.