Civility

Lessons for Lawyers from Ted Lasso

Ted_Lasso_Photo
Photo courtesy of Apple TV

Don’t deny it. There are lessons lawyers can learn from Lasso. Ted Lasso that is. If you don’t know who this is, stop what you’re doing, turn on Apple TV, and watch this show immediately.

The show follows a fictitious English soccer team named AFC Richmond that is now coached by an American from the Midwest who knows little about soccer (or football as it’s known in England).

The antics and stories that ensue are funny and I would even argue they’re hilarious at times. Yet the reasons this show has touched the hearts of so many go beyond humor.

The characters display honesty, compassion, and kindness rarely seen in your average TV show. And the lessons one can learn from Ted Lasso shouldn’t be lost on the legal profession.

Lasso lesson on civility

Image from Ted Lasso
Photo courtesy of Apple TV

Speaking of kindness, the tagline of season two is “Kindness Is Making a Comeback.” Well, if that isn’t a lesson lawyers for lawyers from Lasso, I’m not sure what is.

When I train attorneys on professionalism and civility, I often use the John F. Kennedy quote, “Civility is not a sign of weakness.”

At times, it can be easy to lose sight of civility, especially when there’s incivility on the other side. If lawyers are supposed to zealously advocate for their clients, how can we keep our cool when the other side isn’t? Well, Coach Lasso would say, Heck, even Woody and Buzz got under each other’s plastic.”

Being civil doesn’t mean you have to agree with the other side. The key is how you react to an issue or the uncivil conduct.

Are you going to mirror unprofessional behavior or stick to the facts of a case and advocate for your client in a way that the other side can hear?

As Lasso says, “You gonna give me the cold shoulder and the silent treatment. That’s a combo. Does it come with a medium drink?” In other words, don’t order the combo and drink.

Lasso lesson on mentoring

Image from Ted Lasso
Photo courtesy of Apple TV

No one said the practice of law is easy. But no one said you must do it alone, either.

There are almost 95,000 registered attorneys in Illinois. That’s a lot of mentors. As AFC Richmond’s star player Jamie Tartt wisely noted, “Old people are so wise. They’re like tall Yodas.”

Just think about all of the knowledge and experience that Illinois lawyers have to impart. You don’t have to start from the beginning or reinvent the wheel for everything. There’s a Yoda out there who has argued a similar motion or worked to achieve a similar professional goal.

It should be noted that a mentoring relationship doesn’t only benefit the mentee. Per Ted Lasso, “You know how they say that ‘youth is wasted on the young’? Well, I say don’t let the wisdom of age be wasted on you.”

Reverse mentoring is just as important as sharing wisdom with a younger generation. With four generations in the workforce, there are many things Baby Boomers can learn from the Generation Z digital natives.

And if you don’t know where to find a mentor or a mentee, start with the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism’s mentoring program.

Lasso lesson on pushing yourself

Image from Ted Lasso
Photo courtesy of Apple TV

Lawyers can and should do hard things. The Preamble to the Illinois Model Rules of Professional Conduct lays this out, “A lawyer should strive to attain the highest level of skill, to improve the law and the legal profession and to exemplify the legal profession’s ideals of public service.”

This is no small task. Yet again Ted Lasso offers us some guidance. He said, “Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse, isn’t it? If you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.”

One of the main characters in “Ted Lasso” is Roy Kent (cue the fans cheering, “He’s here, he’s there, he’s every…”). Back in the day, Kent was one of the top players in the league. And now, as the oldest player on AFC Richmond, he contemplates retirement.

In a touching and honest moment, Kent says, “It’s more than a game to me. It’s all I’ve ever known. It’s who I am. It’s all I am.”

The obvious challenge here is how to enter the next phase of his career. Spoiler Alert: Kent eventually funnels his experience and football skills into being a great coach.

The lesson for lawyers from Ted Lasso and the Preamble is to get out of your comfort zone. Days, weeks, and years fly by, and it’s easy to get into a rut when you’re seeing the same people, types of cases, and heavy workload.

If this resonates, you’re riding the horse wrong. When was the last time you took a pro bono case, got involved in your bar association, or chose to take a CLE for the sake of learning rather than just checking the box?

In the end, I agree with the character Trent Crimm — he writes for The Independent in case anyone was wondering — who says, “If the Lasso way is wrong, it’s hard to imagine being right.”

Image from Ted Lasso
Photo courtesy of Apple TV

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5 thoughts on “Lessons for Lawyers from Ted Lasso

  1. I like this. It was a light read. It’s nice to read about the lessons of civility without going heavy handed about exactly how it applies to the legal context.

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