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Lessons of March Madness as Applied to the Real World

Cabulous plays, amazing game-ending shots, stifling defense, dominating offense, collaborative teamwork. We have just observed another installment of March Madness. Whether you are a die-hard sports fan, a casual observer or a novice, it is hard not to get caught […]

Photo of BasketballCabulous plays, amazing game-ending shots, stifling defense, dominating offense, collaborative teamwork. We have just observed another installment of March Madness.

Whether you are a die-hard sports fan, a casual observer or a novice, it is hard not to get caught up in the excitement and drama of March Madness. As you watch your favorite team win or lose, root for the underdog or just enjoy the overall experience of the tournament, we can all learn from the various attributes and elements of what it takes for each team to get the opportunity to participate on the biggest stage of college basketball.

Success is not easy and does not happen overnight. The teams that had the opportunity to participate in March Madness share many of the same attributes and characteristics, in varying degrees.

These attributes and characteristics can lead to success in any endeavor, job or profession, including the practice of law, and include the following:

Preparation (individually and as a team). There is a saying that athletes develop individually in the off-season, and teams improve during the season. Preparation is achieved through continuing improvement of your skills, practice and repetition.

Similarly, as an attorney, you need to continuously prepare to be successful. Preparation may be through participation in continuing legal education, mentoring or being mentored, or practice and preparation in advance of your big trial, transaction, meeting, or other project or presentation. This preparation must occur prior to your time to shine.

Discipline. Success in sports requires a certain level of discipline: discipline to work hard, to prepare, to practice (especially on your own when no one is watching); discipline to do what it takes to achieve your goals, and thereby success. This discipline is equally necessary to realize your goals and success in any role, job or profession.

Experience. Experience can have a direct correlation to the level of success achieved by a basketball team. Experience is essential to understanding what it takes to compete and be successful at the highest levels. Seniors (in this era of “one and done”) provide crucial mentoring and leadership, on and off the floor, to the younger phenoms who must learn quickly for a team to achieve success.

To appreciate the value of experience, you need not look any further than the Wolverines and Spartans this season. Due to injuries, MSU had no seniors actively participating at the end of the season, and U-M relied on such senior leadership to win the Big Ten Tournament title and make a run to the Sweet 16.

Experience is equally valuable and important in any job setting, including the legal profession. Experienced attorneys understand what it takes to be successful in the practice of law in general, and with regard to success in the courtroom, transaction, or in any other legal setting and discipline. I encourage all senior attorneys to mentor younger attorneys when the opportunity presents itself, after all they represent the future of our profession.

Similarly, I strongly recommend younger attorneys to seek and take advantage of all opportunities to observe and learn from more senior experienced attorneys.

Teamwork. Despite the individual talents of athletes on teams throughout the country, the most successful teams understand the importance of working together, buying into the offensive and defensive philosophies of the program/coach, learning that the achievements and success of the team must be put before the individual accomplishments of the athletes; in other words, each collective group of talent from the coaches, to the starters, to the bench players, to the team managers, and beyond, all must learn to operate, cooperate and perform as part of a TEAM. Every participant must accept his or her role, and everyone has a role to play to contribute to the ultimate success of the team.

Success in any business or profession, including success in the practice of law, requires working collaboratively and successfully with your colleagues, assistants, co-workers, and all those who are part of, and contribute to, your team.

During the next March Madness, as you cheer on your team, or root for the underdog, or just enjoy the talent and teamwork being displayed, and that is required to be a national champion, the pinnacle of sports success, consider how what you observe may be transferred or applied to your own job or profession, and contribute to the success of your company or firm.

Fraser Trebilcock Attorney Mark E. Kellogg

Fraser Trebilcock Attorney Mark E. Kellogg chairs Fraser Trebilcock’s Business and Tax Law practice, and has devoted his nearly 30 years of practice to the needs of family and closely-held businesses and enterprises, business succession, and estate planning. In addition, Mark is a certified public accountant. He is the current President of the Ingham County Bar Association. Contact Mark at 517.377.0890 or