Editor's note: This is one of four stories by 4th Judicial Circuit judges as they share their insight into the 2023 Law Day theme: Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility, and Collaboration.
It has been said that collaboration is the fuel of progress. The sharing of experiences, ideas and perspectives not only adds to collective knowledge, it creates a dimension of understanding and creativity that cannot come from the efforts of a single person.
History is replete with examples of great minds coming together to do what none of them could have done on their own. And so it is with the practice of law.
Whether the goal is as narrow as winning a trial or as broad as refining the process by which self-represented litigants are provided guidance, people working together produce a better result.
That we can accomplish more with the assistance of others should be self-evident.
But if there remain doubters, consider the following: Even the most informed and creative person lacks the experience and perspective of others. All you know is what you know. If you weren’t raised in the country, do you really know what that’s like? If you haven’t served in our military, do you really understand how that goes?
Collaboration allows us to share and evaluate our ideas. If we offer our solution to others, we may learn our idea is completely impractical. Or we may find out it’s really good. But we won’t know either just thinking about it ourselves.
As former Yahoo President and CEO Marissa Mayer found, “When you need to innovate, you need collaboration.”
Once you’ve decided on collaboration, there are steps to follow.
The key to collaboration is communication. You must make a way for everyone to share their ideas and have input. Be it meetings where everyone is invited or group emails, make sure every person is included and able to speak.
Second, encourage input from everyone. All participants need to feel empowered to share. Without complete input you don’t have full collaboration. You’ve got an eight-cylinder engine running on six. Reluctance to speak is the poison of collaboration.
Third, construct a group with different perspectives and experiences. If you invite only like-minded people, you will get only like-minded ideas. Diversity of thought leads to a variety of ideas.
Finally, ensure the greater good is placed above self. In a collaborative setting, everyone needs to be working toward the group goal and not their own interests. Be certain the goal is well defined.
And remember an old Hopi proverb, “One finger cannot lift a pebble.”
• Circuit Judge Angela Cox: Building a stronger and more just society for all. Story here
• Circuit Judge Steven Fahlgren: Let us all strive to be civil in professional interactions. Story here
• Circuit Judge Steven Whittington: Share your knowledge, skills with fellow citizens. Story here