February 2021

Get on the team

By Dyan Ebert

My father was a high school basketball coach. One of the most significant lessons I learned from my dad is the importance of teamwork. At any point in time there may be a star player on the court who gets a lot of the glory, but the coach knows that without the support of a strong team, that individual player would not enjoy as much success. Indeed, as legendary college basketball player and coach John Wooden noted, “The main ingredient to stardom is the rest of the team.”

One of my law firm’s core values is “interdependence.” To us, this means appreciating the value the whole team—the lawyer, the paralegal, the administrative staff—provides to the client experience. At trial, I may be the one at the free-throw line, with one second remaining and the game tied, but I know my teammates helped me get there.   

Being the member of a team, and recognizing and valuing each member’s individual strengths and contributions, have accounted for some of my most rewarding experiences. When everyone on a team is accountable and committed, the reward comes from the satisfaction of the effort regardless of the final score of the game or the outcome of the project. 

I believe this is the reason I was initially drawn to, and became so involved in, the MSBA and why I have found it to be so personally rewarding. The MSBA epitomizes the concept of teamwork and working together toward a common goal, and it has filled a gap in my professional life. 

The MSBA has given me the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from attorneys across the state, and even across the country, about some of the most significant issues facing our profession and society. Most recently, these discussions have focused on issues related to recognizing and confronting systemic racism in our justice system, the ongoing efficacy of the bar examination, and defending the rule of law and the Constitution in the face of unprecedented attacks on our democracy. Through these experiences and discussions, my eyes have been opened to a variety of perspectives that I likely would not have encountered or appreciated but for my involvement in the MSBA. I am a better lawyer, and a better citizen, because of the things I have been exposed to through membership and leadership
with the MSBA.

Each member of the MSBA has the opportunity to serve on the team and to make a unique and valuable contribution to the overall success of the association and, in turn, the profession. When the intelligence and commitment of these members are focused on a common goal, the force is formidable and both the individuals and the team are elevated. Whether it is through involvement in a section or a committee, or through service on the Assembly, Council, or Executive Committee, individual egos fall away when MSBA members are working on a project, and the focus quickly turns to finding a path to the decision that will benefit the entire team.

This is not to suggest that there are no differences of opinion about what is best for the association or the profession, or about how a problem should be addressed. Indeed, that is another aspect of my involvement in the MSBA that I have found so rewarding: the willingness and commitment to consider a wide diversity of opinions and ideas when confronting tough issues. Even when an issue is controversial, the MSBA strives to provide a forum for healthy, respectful debate. These sessions remind me of another Coach Wooden-ism: “Surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.”

Join the team. Be active in the MSBA. Step forward to take on a leadership role in one of the sections or committees—raise your hand and volunteer when asked. You’ll enjoy the satisfaction of the effort, and the camaraderie that develops, perhaps
even as much as you enjoy making that game-winning shot. 

Dyan Ebert is a partner at the central Minnesota firm of Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A., where she served as CEO from 2003-2010 and 2014-2019. She also served on the board of directors of Minnesota CLE from 2012-2019. 

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