Search

Loading

Join 5,100 Subscribers and Get Notified of New Articles Every Week

Your email:

Watch Now: Using PowerPoint Litigation Graphics to Win - Webinar

using powerpoint litigation graphics

Free Litigation Webinar - Storytelling for Litigators - Watch Now

Featured E-Book: The Patent Litigator's Guide to Trial Presentation & Trial Preparation

patent litigation ebook 3rd edition

Featured Free Download: The Complex Civil Litigation Trial Guide

a2l consultants complex civil litigation trial guide download

Free Webinar - Integrating Expert Evidence & Winning Arguments - Watch Anytime.

expert witness teach science complex subject courtroom webinar

Nationally Acclaimed - Voted #1 Jury Research Firm and #1 Demonstrative Evidence Firm in the U.S.

voted best demonstrative evidence consultants

A2L best demonstrative trial graphics consultants
best demonstrative evidence litigation graphics consultants

Download the (Free) Storytelling for Litigators E-Book

describe the image

Considering Using a Trial Technician at Your Next Trial? Download this first.

trial technicians trial technology atlanta houston new york boston virginia

Featured Free Download: Using Science to Prevail in Your Next Case or Controversy

using science to win at trial litigation jury

Featured FREE A2L E-Book: Using Litigation Graphics Persuasively

using litigation graphics trial graphics trial presentation consultants

Free Jury Consulting & Trial Consulting Guidebook for Litigators

jury consulting trial consultants guide

Timelines Appear In Most Trials - Learn how to get the most out of using trial timelines in this ebook

trial timelines graphics consultants litigators

Featured Complimentary eBook - The 100-page Antitrust Litigation Guide

antitrust ebook a2l litigation consultants

Featured Complimentary eBook - Leadership Lessons for Litigators and Litigation Support

leadership lessons litigation law firms litigation support

Featured E-Book: The Environmental Litigator's Guide to Trial Presentation & Prep

environmental litigation trial presentation trial prep ebook a2l

Authors

KenLopez resized 152

Ken Lopez founded A2L Consulting in 1995. The firm has since worked with litigators from all major law firms on more than 10,000 cases with over $2 trillion cumulatively at stake.  The A2L team is comprised of psychologists, jury consultants, trial consultants, litigation consultants, attorneys and information designers who provide jury consulting, litigation graphics and trial technology.  Ken Lopez can be reached at lopez@A2LC.com.


ryanflax blog litigation consultant 

Ryan H. Flax, Esq., Managing Director, Litigation Consulting, joined A2L Consulting on the heels of practicing Intellectual Property (IP) law as part of the Intellectual Property team at Dickstein Shapiro LLP, a national law firm based in Washington, DC.  Over the course of his career, Ryan has obtained jury verdicts totaling well over $1 billion in damages on behalf of his clients and has helped clients navigate the turbulent waters of their competitors’ patents.  Ryan can be reached at flax@a2lc.com.


dr laurie kuslansky jury consultant a2l consulting
Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D, Managing Director, Trial & Jury Consulting, has conducted over 400 mock trials in more than 1,000 litigation engagements over the past 20 years. Dr. Kuslansky's goal is to provide the highest level of personalized client service possible whether one's need involves a mock trial, witness preparation, jury selection or a mock exercise not involving a jury. Dr. Kuslansky can be reached at kuslansky@A2LC.com.

Posts by Category

Follow A2L Consulting

Member Red Well Blog
ABA Blawg 100 2013 7th annual

A2L Featured Letter of Recommendation

Follow Us on Google+

The Litigation Consulting Report

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

When a Good Trial Team Goes Bad: The Psychology of Team Anxiety

 


Learn why the work of the father of group psychology from 70 years ago is so important to the leadership of a modern trial team.


Stories about a trial team breaking down at or just before trial are legendary.  The breakdowns are typically triggered by some event that creates anxiety that then causes the team to engage in one of three progressively severe sets of behaviors:

  1. Wilfred BionDeification of the Leader: Looking to the leader of the team to make the anxiety go away or the leader taking dictatorial control over the team;
     
  2. Fights and Departures: Fighting among members of the team or abrupt departures from the team;
     
  3. Coups: Two or more people plotting to overthrow the leader or change leadership.

These breakdowns follow something going wrong in or around the trial team’s work that produces fear.  For example, I have seen trial teams slip into one of these behavior patterns after inter-team relationships are brought to light, when a judge discovers and makes public ethics problems on the team, when a client stops paying bills, when layoffs are being announced at the office, when something unexpected happens mid-case, when a team-member dies, when a ruling goes the wrong way or when the first chair is revealed to be unprepared, distracted or unqualified to try the case. 

Ever see these things happen on a trial team or similar things happen to any team for that matter?  Well, it turns out that these three behavior patterns were first described 68 years ago by the father of group psychology, Wilfred Bion.  In my business career, nothing has proven more valuable than the knowledge Bion revealed, and for leaders of a trial team and the members of that team, learning a little bit about Bion can pay off enormously in the long run. 

It turns out that the three patterns described at the beginning of this article are all increasingly severe subconscious group responses to anxiety and were described by Bion as:

  1. Dependence: Where the followers subconsciously act in a way that forces the leader to take action to make the anxiety go away.  If that fails, the team subconsciously moves onto the second and more severe breakdown.
     
  2. Fight/Flight: Team members run away from the anxiety by fighting amongst themselves for distraction or try, as individuals, to escape the team altogether.  As above, if this fails to make the anxiety go away, the team subconsciously proceeds to the next stage of breakdown.

  3. Pairing:  In this, the most destructive of the subconscious responses, a pair of team members plots to replace the leader through secret meetings or to find any other way to run away from the anxiety en masse.

In the eyes of Bion, teams are either in productive work mode or they are in moving through one of these three states, collectively called Basic Assumptions.  The sole purpose of going into Basic Assumption mode is to make anxiety go away, a response that is completely knee-jerk and subconscious.  Perhaps, you will not find it surprising to learn that these rules apply to any team whether it is a trial team, an executive committee, a club or even a family. 

One noted expert in human behavior, Robert M. Young similarly remarked on his experience with groups and teams, “My experience was that, sure enough, from time to time each group would fall into a species of madness and start arguing and forming factions over matters which, on later reflection, would not seem to justify so much passion and distress. More often than not, the row would end up in a split or in the departure or expulsion of one or more scapegoats. This happened all over the place -- in high school, college dormitories and societies, university departments, teams making tv documentaries, collectives editing periodicals, communes, psychotherapy training organizations. Every time this happened to groups of which I was a member I thought it was either my fault or that I had once again fallen among thieves, scoundrels, zealots, dim-wits or some combination of the above.”  This probably sounds familiar, right? 

So, what is the takeaway?  I think Bion’s work is valuable to leaders of a trial team or leaders of teams of any sort for several reasons.

  • First, if you know about Dependence, Fight/Flight and Pairing, you can always tell how far into distress your team really is by using these progressively worsening stages as something of a measuring stick.
     
  • Second, the leader should learn to keep their head, no matter what.  For once a leader loses control of their own emotions, they too have succumbed to the Basic Assumption.  Thus, one job of a leader is to constantly increase their own capacity to handle anxiety and to the extent possible, help their team increase their capacity for managing the stress.
     
  • Third, there is actually a way for a skilled leader who has a team with enough emotional intelligence and intellectual strength to help pull the team out of Basic Assumption mode and return to productive work mode.  Like many leadership lessons, however, it is simple, but it is not easy.  All a leader needs to do is to force the group to talk about the thing at the root cause of the anxiety.  With enough conversation and the right people, the team can return to productive work.

About A2L Consulting

•  Leading national litigation consulting firm since 1995

•  Personnel nationwide

•  Routinely voted #1 for demonstrative evidence consulting, jury consulting or intellectual property litigation consulting nationally

•  Consulted for all major law firms on 10,000+ cases with trillions of dollars cumulatively at stake offering:

Trial Consulting: mock trials, Micro-Mock™, mock Markman hearings, jury consulting, shadow juries, jury selection and more; 

Trial Graphics: legal graphics and litigation graphics, courtroom animation, video, printed foam core trial exhibits, PowerPoint presentation consulting, simplifying the case story and more; 

Trial Technology & Onsite Personnel: ebriefs (electronic briefs), hot seat operators, trial technicians, courtroom presentations and more; 

Look for A2L trial consultants, graphics consultants and jury consultants in Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, New York, NY, Boston, MA, Alexandria, VA, Atlanta, GA, Miami, FL, Chicago, IL, Houston, Texas, Los Angeles, CA, and San Francisco, California, Wilmington, Delaware, Philadelphia, PA, Phoenix, AZ, San Antonio, Palo Alto, Dallas, Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Richmond, VA, Salt Lake City, Denver, London, Dublin, Johannesburg, Brussels and many other cities and countries around the world. A2L Contact Information


Claim a FREE Subscription to this Blog - The Litigation Consulting Report - Quarterly iPad Giveaways for Subscribers


Comments

Currently, there are no comments. Be the first to post one!
Post Comment
Name
 *
Email
 *
Website (optional)
Comment
 *

Allowed tags: <a> link, <b> bold, <i> italics